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Parasites and Your Pet

Fleas | Ticks | Hot Spots | Heartworms | Other Worms | Mites

Parasites (fleas, ticks, and worms) can make your cat or dog sick. The good news is that you can protect your pet from parasites. It costs some money to prevent parasite-borne diseases, but it is cheaper to prevent than treat an illness!


The height of flea-and-tick season is April-August, but fleas can cause problems all year. Fleas move fast, so they can be hard to see in your petís fur. Look for flea dirt in the area where your pets sleeps. Flea dirt looks like black specks, but when you rub it with a damp paper towel, it shows as a reddish smear.

Fleas can make your dog or cat very itchy, lose their hair, and lose lots of blood. In addition, fleas can carry tapeworm eggs. If your pet eats a flea that is carrying tapeworm eggs, your pet can get tapeworms. If your pet has tapeworms, you will notice small, hard, seed-like particles where your pet sleeps.

You can treat a flea problem with flea collars, powders, sprays, shampoos, and dips. These treatments must be repeated often in order to work. The easiest and best way to prevent fleas is to use a monthly ďspot-onĒ topical medicine. A few drops on your petís neck is all it takes to kill fleas for one month.

Topical flea products you can get at your vet include Frontline, Top Spot, Revolution and Advantage. You can purchase these products a bit cheaper from websites such as, or Frontline and Hartz topical products are available at pet, discount, and grocery stores. offers cheaper spot-on products such as Bio Spot, Defend, and Gentle Touch. These cheaper products may not work as well as the ones you can get from a vet.

Fleas can make a dog's life miserable, so please protect your dog from these biting parasites.

Remember: Itís cheaper to prevent your pet from getting fleas than to hire exterminators to get rid of them!



Heartworms are deadly worms carried by mosquitoes. If an infected mosquito bites your dog, your dog will get worms that actually live in the petís heart. Heartworms cause blocked blood vessels, breathing problems, bleeding problems, and heart failure. Your pet can die from untreated heartworms.

Signs of a serious heartworm infection include coughing, intolerance of exercise, fainting, and difficulty breathing.

The only way to prevent heartworms is by giving your dog medicine each month. Monthly heartworm medicine kills baby heartworms in your dog's blood.

Heartworm preventatives are available from a vet or online. Some sites, such as (1-888-PetMeds) require a prescription from your vet. equine-mega-store, based in Australia with cheap international shipping, does not require a prescription. Generic heartworm preventatives, including Valuheart, ProHeart and Iverheart are cheaper than other brands.

You can purchase the main ingredient in heartworm preventatives, ivermectin, in bulk at some pet and farm supply stores. Buying it in bulk is cheap, but you must be very careful with dosage.

Some heartworm preventatives protect your pet from other parasites, too. For instance, Revolution and Sentinel protect your pet from heartworms, fleas, mites, intestinal worms, and ticks. Sentinel is a tablet, while Revolution is the spot-on treatment applied to the dog's neck.

If your dog is already infected with heartworms, there are several ways to kill them. You can have the dog treated at your vet. Your vet will give the dog injections to kill the worms. This treatment is expensive and requires that the dog remain still and mostly inactive for weeks during treatment. If this isn't an an option, many vets are now giving dogs antibiotics that kill the bacteria that co-exist with the worms. Killing the bacteria should weaken the worms.

Heartworm-positive dogs can be started on ivermectin-based heartworm preventative, such as Heartguard or Iverheart. Heartworm preventative will not kill existing adult worms, but it will prevent new ones. Adult worms will die naturally in about two years. Even if you can't afford to treat existing heartworms, starting them on preventative will keep your dog from further infestation.



Ticks can cause diseases in your pet such as Lyme disease. Some flea treatments, like Revolution and Frontline, also kill ticks. You can get cheap tick collars from pet and discount stores, and very effective tick collars from your vet. The easiest way to remove a tick from your pet is to grab it with tweezers and gently pull it out. Be sure and pull out the tickís head, too! After removing the tick, apply some alcohol to the spot.


Hot Spots

Hot spots are common in summer, often caused when your dog scratches. A hot spot is a moist, red, strong-smelling, infected area on the dog's skin. If you see your dog constantly scratching the same spot, check for an oozing, red area. You can treat hot spots yourself by keeping the infected area clean and dry:

1. Cut all the hair away from the area. Sometimes you have to cut quite a bit of hair off. Cutting the hair off allows air to reach the infected area and dry it out.

2. Clean the area. Pour rubbing alcohol, witch hazel, or hydrogen peroxide onto the infected area, then pat it dry.

3. Treat the area with antibacterial powder or spray from your vet, Neosporin spray from the grocery, or dissolve an aspirin in a cup of black tea and apply the tea with a rag.

Clean the area several times a day and be sure it stays dry.


Other Worms

There are four other types of worms that live in the intestines and make dogs and cats sick. The most common is the roundworm. Most puppies and kittens have roundworms. Pets with roundworms may have a ďpot-belliedĒ appearance, vomiting, and poor growth. Puppies and kittens should be tested for worms when they get their shots. If untreated, roundworms can kill baby animals. Adult animals can also get roundworms. Hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms are similar to roundworms. Diarrhea, dehydration and weight loss are the most common symptoms. Sometimes you will see worms or parts of worms in your petís bowel movements, around the anus, or in their bedding.

Your vet can test babies and adults for worms. If you are sure your dog has worms, you may save money by asking your vet for a wormer without a fecal test. Wormers can also be bought very cheaply at farm supply and some pet stores. Be sure you follow the package directions carefully.



Mites are so small that they are hard to see. Some mites cause a serious skin problem called mange (a disease that causes itching, hair loss, and sores). Ear mites are a common problem in both dogs and cats. They produce a buildup of very dark, waxy matter inside the ear and cause itching. An animal with ear mites will scratch at its ears and may shake its head a lot. Your vet can give you inexpensive medications to treat mites.

NOTE: The information on this page is not meant to diagnose or prescribe for you. The decision to use, or not to use, any information on this page is the sole responsibility of the reader. Opinions expressed here are those of the site owner.

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