Parasites and Preventatives Refresher

Spring is here, sort of! Despite the occasional snowstorm, our daytime temperatures are consistently above freezing, which means we will have a lot more parasite activity. We have a number of pesky parasites in Minnesota that can cause discomfort and spread diseases. These are a few of the parasites to know about in our area:

1. Ticks: Ticks are blood-sucking arthropods that are usually found in wooded areas and tall grasses. Tick bites themselves can sometimes be irritating, but the bigger risk from tick bites is being infected with the diseases they carry. The main tick in Minnesota that spreads disease is the tiny deer tick. Adult deer ticks are about the size of sesame seeds, and immature ticks are almost too small to see. Deer ticks carry Lyme disease and anaplasma, which can cause illness in both dogs and humans. We also have dog ticks, which are quite large and can spread Rocky mountain spotted fever and tularemia, as well as lone star ticks, which carry ehrlichia and tularemia. Lyme disease is preventable with a vaccine, but other tick-borne illnesses are not. The best way to protect your pet from tick borne illnesses is to use a reliable, fast-acting tick preventative. Physical tick checks after being outdoors are important too, but considering how tiny ticks are, it’s impossible to reliably remove all ticks from a furry animal like a dog or cat.

2. Fleas: Fleas are another group of blood-sucking arthropods. In Minnesota, fleas are commonly found living on wildlife such as rabbits, squirrels, and deer. Flea bites are very itchy, sometimes causing such intense itching that pets chew off their hair or damage their skin due to scratching and biting. Young or sick animals can become so severely infested that they become anemic. Flea bites themselves are annoying for pets and humans. Like ticks, fleas also carry bacteria that cause diseases such as mycoplasma (formerly called hemobartonella or “feline infectious anemia”) and tularemia (also known as “rabbit fever”, which can infect dogs, cats, and humans). We see all of these diseases in Minnesota, and because fleas can overwinter indoors, we advise using a preventative year-round. Nexgard, Frontline Gold, and Revolution Plus all offer excellent flea prevention.

3. Mosquitoes: Minnesotans are all very familiar with mosquitoes and their itchy bites! Mosquitoes like to bite cats and dogs too, usually on their exposed skin like their ears. Similar to fleas and ticks, the diseases that mosquitoes carry are more of a problem than the actual bites themselves. Mosquitoes can transmit heartworm disease, a bloodborne disease caused by a parasitic worm. Left untreated, heartworm disease leads to difficulty breathing, heart failure, and death. Dogs are the primary victims of heartworm disease, although cats can also be infected. While treatable, heartworm treatment is costly and difficult. Prevention is much cheaper and safer for your pet! Heartgard Plus and Revolution Plus rid the body of any larva that mosquitoes might have transmitted over the past month, keeping them from maturing into adult heartworms. No medication is 100% effective, so it is important to screen your dog annually to be sure they haven’t become infected. The earlier heartworm treatment is started, the less damage has been done to your pet’s heart and lungs and the more effective treatment is.

4. Intestinal parasites: When most people think of a pet having “worms”, they are thinking about intestinal parasites as opposed to heartworms. Roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms are all commonly seen in cats and dogs. All of these parasites are contagious to other pets, and some can be spread to human family members too. Most heartworm preventatives will also provide protection against roundworms and hookworms. Other parasites might need treatment with a specific deworming medication. Pets can get intestinal parasites from hunting wildlife, eating raw or undercooked meat, visiting areas where lots of other pets have been (such as dog parks), or eating poop of other pets or wild animals (gross as it is, this is a normal behavior that many dogs engage in). Be sure to have your pet’s fecal sample tested for parasites once yearly, especially if you have small children or immunocompromised family at home. Intestinal parasites can be transmitted between pets or via hunting regardless of outdoor temperatures, so we advise using a preventative year-round.

Unsure if you need to be worried about your pet’s exposure to parasites? Overwhelmed by the options for preventative medications? Not sure whether you should use a prescription preventative, something over-the-counter, or an herbal supplement? Don’t hesitate to ask your veterinarian to help you develop a plan that protects your pet and your family against parasites in the safest and most effective way possible.

COVID-19 Update

We are no longer limiting the number of clients that are allowed to accompany their pets indoors for doctor appointments or euthanasias. Given the steady decline in COVID-19 cases in our community, we feel that the risks are currently low enough to allow a larger number of clients to enter our facility. Should case numbers increase again, we may reinstate our previous limitations. Please call the concierge number when you arrive so we can escort you directly to an exam room from your vehicle. We look forward to seeing more of you in the clinic again!

Animal Health News

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Arrives in Minnesota

We knew that it was only a matter of time before Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza would arrive in Minnesota, and our first cases were confirmed on March 25th. If you haven’t already, now is the time to put your backyard poultry on “flockdown”. HPAI has an extremely high mortality rate and the best way to protect your birds is to prevent contact between them and wild birds. Waterfowl carry the highest risk of transmitting HPAI, so be especially careful about not allowing your birds contact with waterfowl or areas that waterfowl visit. Do your best to keep your birds, their feed, and their water away from contact with wildlife.

New Treatment Option for Feline Arthritis on the Horizon

If you have a cat who suffers from arthritis pain, you know that there aren’t very many options for pain control for kitties in comparison to dogs or humans. Last month, Zoetis announced that a new treatment for arthritis in cats was approved by the FDA. Solensia is a once-monthly monoclonal antibody injection that targets mediators of pain in arthritic joints. We are very excited that we will soon have a new tool to help painful cats! The medication is not yet available to order, but we will be letting clients know as soon as we receive it.

Welactin Backorder

Welactin liquid fish oil supplement for dogs is currently on backorder. We have Welactin available in capsules, and have also temporarily started carrying EicosaDerm until Welactin liquid is available again. Please let us know if you have any questions!

Save the Date!

Did you know that this year is St. Francis Animal Hospital’s 30th Anniversary? We’re hosting an Open House so that we can celebrate with all of you! Mark your calendar for Sunday September 18th from 1-4 pm. We can’t wait to see you all there!