Fall in Michigan means cooler temperatures and more time indoors. But pets still need protection from parasites, which can have a presence year-round! Eastown Veterinary Clinic’s newest veterinarian, Dr. Holly Mincks, took time to answer questions and explain why parasite prevention is so important!
Q: We hear a lot about “monthly preventatives.” What are these, and why do we need them?
A: “Monthly preventatives” are medications that are given to prevent fleas, ticks, heartworms, and the diseases that these pests carry. Many of the heartworm preventatives also treat intestinal parasites too!
It is important to give these medications because fleas and ticks can carry diseases that are very harmful to your pet. Heartworm, in particular, can be deadly if your pet contracts it.
What many pet owners do not always realize is that most flea/tick preventatives do not specifically protect against heartworm disease. There are several products that combine flea/heartworm prevention, such as Trifexis, but many do not. If you are not sure whether the preventative you are giving protects against fleas, ticks, and heartworm, it is a good idea to ask your veterinarian!
Q: How does heartworm preventative work?
A: Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes, so when a mosquito bites a dog or cat with heartworm, it can transfer heartworm to a healthy pet.
Heartworm preventatives are designed to kill the heartworm at a very early larva stage before they have a chance to grow and infest the heart. For this reason, it is important to give heartworm preventatives at the same time each month, to make sure you are killing the heartworm at the larva stage. Heartworm testing can detect heartworm disease from the previous season, which is why we recommend testing for heartworm disease every year.
It is also important to give heartworm prevention year-round, rather than only seasonally. This is a common question I get from many pet owners. Heartworm preventatives work retroactively – meaning they kill infection that your pet has picked up within the previous month. This means that if we were to stop giving heartworm prevention too soon during the year, your pet could still get deadly heartworm disease.
Q: My dog only goes outside to go potty. Does he really need heartworm preventative?
A: Yes! Here at Eastown Veterinary Clinic, we follow the guidelines of the American Heartworm Society, which recommends year-round heartworm prevention for every pet, regardless of their lifestyle.
Anytime your dog is outside, no matter how brief, he or she is susceptible to heartworm disease. Weather in Michigan can often be unpredictable, so it is not always possible to accurately predict when the weather will be “too cold” for mosquitoes!
Q: My cat is indoors only. Why do you recommend heartworm preventative for her?
A: Cats can contract heartworm disease from mosquitoes in the same way that dogs can. Believe it or not, mosquitoes can live in climates as cold as 57 degrees for up to 30 days, including inside your home during the cold winter months!
The heartbreaking truth about feline heartworm disease is that there is currently no approved treatment for heartworm disease in cats! For that reason alone, it is far easier to prevent heartworm disease than to risk your cat’s life.
Q: I only have one cat, and she never goes outside. Why does she need flea preventative?
A: There are many ways for fleas to find a way into your home, even if your cat never goes outside. Fleas can hitch a ride on a dog that goes outdoors, or if you live in an older house, you may have mice in your basement or attic that are also carriers. Fleas can even be brought into the house on your clothing! They love the warm temperatures that a house provides, and it does not take long for an infestation to occur.
Q: I’ve heard flea collars don’t work, but you recommend Seresto collars. What’s the difference?
A: Depending on the type of flea collar, some collars only kill the adult fleas, while others may target the younger stages of fleas. Seresto is unique because it both kills and repels fleas (and ticks!), so it prevents them from biting your pet and transmitting diseases. It lasts for 8 months and is water resistant, so it is very convenient if you live a busy lifestyle.
Additionally, many off-brand or low-quality flea collars can cause skin reactions in some pets, and many cannot guarantee that they will be effective for your pet. For this reason, we recommend only purchasing flea/tick and heartworm prevention from your veterinarian to ensure the product will be safe and effective for your pet.
Q: Preventatives are expensive! Is it worth the money?
A: Absolutely! Let’s take a look at heartworm prevention as an example. The average pet owner pays between $5-15 per month on heartworm prevention. The average cost of treatment for a dog with heartworm is $1000 or more. This means that if you are giving heartworm prevention every month at $5 per month, it will take at least 15 years (longer than the lifespan of most pets) to reach the cost of 1 heartworm treatment!
Fleas, while not as life-threatening as heartworm, can be extremely difficult to get rid of once they have infested your home. If you see a live flea on your pet, that means there are more in your house waiting to hatch! Because fleas like to lay their eggs in carpeting, clothing, and bedding, treatment consists of very diligent housecleaning, along with treating every pet in the home with a topical (applied on the skin) or oral (given by mouth) flea prevention for a minimum of 3 months. This ensures we are killing both the eggs that live in the environment and the adult fleas that jump on your pet! All in all, it is tedious work to get rid of fleas, not to mention hundreds of dollars spent in flea bombs or pest control services for your house.
It is much, much cheaper and easier to prevent the problem than to treat it after it has occurred!
Q: Any final thoughts?
A: If you have any questions about flea, tick, or heartworm preventatives, please ask our friendly, knowledgeable staff! We are always willing to discuss different products and determine what would work best with your pets and lifestyle!
During October, Eastown Veterinary Clinic will be offering savings on parasite preventatives! Save $10 on a year’s supply of Trifexis or Revolution, or $10 off the purchase of both a year’s supply of Interceptor and a year’s supply of Frontline or Nexgard. Call (616) 649-1075 for more information!