There are many parasites that can endanger your pet’s life, or just make it very uncomfortable. Let us help you choose the right prevention and treatment. Click on one of the buttons below to learn about specific parasites.
Over the past few years, the danger to your pet from ticks has changed dramatically in Toronto. As soon as the temperature goes above 3 degrees celsius for more than a couple of days, we start to see ticks, and increasingly they carry very serious diseases, such as Lyme Disease, Ehrlichia, and Anaplasmosis. The number of confirmed Lyme cases in dogs increased from 92 in 2012 to over 1300 in 2017 at our lab company alone. The number dropped back to just under 1000 in 2018, which is likely due to the large numbers of pets who are now on preventives. Active between March and December frosts, Ticks are here to stay and they are already out questing for a blood meal.
Tick-borne Disease Testing
As of 2019, we are now strongly recommending that all dogs be given a 4DX test once per year. This combined test checks for Heartworm, Lyme Disease, Ehrlichia, and Anaplasmosis.
As many of the diseases carried by ticks can be life threatening or life-long for both humans and pets, preventing ticks from attaching in the first place is essential. After any walk in the woods or long grass, examine your dog and yourself for any ticks that may be trying to attach and remove them. A tick that hasn’t yet attached will be moving around on your dog. If the tick isn’t moving and/or you can’t see its head, the tick likely has attached. Please follow these instructions to remove the tick with tweezers, or better yet, use a Tick Twister, to avoid leaving the head embedded in your pet.
Finally, we have a single oral product for dogs that protects against Heartworm, Fleas, Ticks, and Intestinal parasites all in one tasty chew. Ask us about Spectra for your dog.
For the summer months of 2019, Spectra is our recommended preventive. We will prescribe Spectra from June 1 to November 1 during mosquito season when heartworm is spread, and prescribe Nexgard (the tick and flea preventative) for April, May, and December.
If you prefer, we can still prescribe Advantix (which is applied to the skin) with Heartgard, or Nexgard (but Spectra is basically a combination of Nexgard and Heartguard in one chew). Extreme care must be used with Advantix if your dog has a cat friend. Advantix is extremely toxic to cats. If you have a cat in the house, you must keep the dog and the cat separated for 24 hours after you administer Advantix to your dog.
Examination of any removed ticks may be beneficial to determine if it is a species known to spread disease.
Tick RemovalIf you find a tick on your dog, it should be removed immediately. Do NOT just pull it off, as the ticks head is embedded in the skin. To remove it you will need a pair of fine tweezers. Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. Pull it firmly away from the skin until it releases-sometimes it helps to twist a bit as you pull. Sometimes a small piece of the dog’s skin will come with the tick. They are remarkably strong and will resist being pulled off. If the head breaks off, a skin reaction or minor infection may result. If you are concerned, or if a bump forms in the area, please bring the pet in to be checked by one of our vets.
Tick Twisters can also be very effective in removing ticks. We carry these in tick season, so pick one up the next time you’re in and have it to hand.
After you remove the tick, either destroy it, or if you are concerned about possible disease, save the tick, and it can be sent out for testing for a number of tick-borne diseases. We can then advise you about the best course of action for your pet.
If you are uncomfortable removing the tick yourself, or are uncertain of what a tick looks like, please call the clinic and we will be happy to see your dog and help you.
Flea season starts in July or August and goes until Christmas. Some years are worse than others. If your pet has fleas, you have fleas in your house as they produce thousands of egg which fall off onto your floors. There are some very safe products available to prevent fleas. There are also some very dangerous ones. Please contact us about a flea prevention program before starting on one.
We always recommend that you bring a stool sample for examination for parasites, when you come in for your pet’s wellness exam or whenever your pet is experiencing diarrhea. We are doing this for the protection both of your pet, and you and your family. We examine the sample to look for worms such as roundworm, hookworm, and whipworm, (as well as protozoal parasites such as giardia). These worms may be present in the stool only as microscopic eggs, and not visible to the human eye. Roundworm and hookworm can both be transmitted from a pet to humans. While this is rare, it can be very serious. In children or immuno-compromised adults, round worms can cause blindness or brain damage, and hookworm can migrate through the skin, causing serious rashes. These are not risks any of us want to take. In your pet, these infestations can cause diarrhea, weight loss, and in the case of hookworm, blood loss.
If a puppy’s mother had worms as a youngster that puppy will have worms itself as a certain number lie dormant in mum until she gets pregnant. The worms then are either passed across the placenta or in the milk. Worms can cause diarrhea, coughing, weight loss and even anemia. The eggs are shed in the feces of the pet and then infect their environment just waiting to be picked up by another animal or possibly a human.
In adult dogs, worms are easily picked up from their environment. An infected animal can shed thousands and thousands of eggs in each stool. It is common for dogs to become infected by coming in contact with the droppings of another animal while they are outside. The eggs are very sticky and can be picked up on your pet’s paws or fur and when they groom themselves they ingest the eggs and the cycle starts again.
There are various ways to prevent and treat worms. Many of the heartworm preventatives that we prescribe also prevent or treat some of the roundworm species. If your pet does contract worms there are safe and effective medications to eradicate them.
What is Heartworm?Heartworms are exactly what they sound: 3-6 inch worms that live in the heart and vessels that lead to the lungs. Baby worms called microfilaria circulate in the blood of an infected dog. These microfilaria are picked up by a biting mosquito and passed to the next animal it bites. Over the next seven months the microfilaria mature into adult worms living in the heart and begin to produce another generation of microfilaria. Over time, the heart becomes filled with adult worms. The worms living in it can damage it potentially leading to heart failure and death. The good news is that prevention is easy.
How common is Heartworm? Is prevention really necessary?
Heartworm is spread by mosquitos, so any dog in your area who has gone unprotected could be infecting your own dog. It is becoming much more common for dogs to travel, especially to southern areas like Florida where the infection rate is extremely high. As well, people adopt dogs in southern destinations and bring them home from their winter holidays. Often these rescue dogs are carrying heavy worm burdens. Closer to home, there are parts of southern Ontario that have large numbers of reported cases. As well, urban Coyotes have now been identified as a significant Heartworm reservoir, so it is very possible that Toronto coyotes are providing a local source for the parasite.
All it takes is one mosquito, biting just one of these infected dogs, then biting yours, to spread the infection. Treatment of an established heart worm infestation is extremely risky for your dog.
Every year a survey is sent to Ontario veterinarians and we report the number of dogs tested and the number of positive tests we have seen. Toronto always reports multiple cases and some areas such as the shore of Lake Erie show a high rate of infection. By its very nature the survey results are skewed towards the low side, as only owners who take their dogs for testing and put them on preventative are represented in the survey. There are thousands of dogs out there that are not tested, or on preventative medication, so the number of cases and therefore potentials carriers may be much higher. As mentioned before it just takes one of those dogs to be in your neighbourhood to put your dog at risk.Heartworm Prevention
As of 2019, we are recommending annual testing for Heartworm and Tick-borne Diseases, using the combined 4DX Test which tests for Heartworm, Lyme Disease, Ehrlichia, and Anaplasmosis.
Once a dog or puppy is found to be negative we put them on a preventative program for the summer.