Protect Your Pet from Heartworms and Other Outdoor Pests

Prevention is Key

Fortunately, heartworm disease is preventable in both cats and dogs. Approved medications are safe and effective when administered properly. They are also easy to give and available in several varieties — pills, chewables, topicals and injections. Cats can be started on preventive medication without pre-testing to determine heartworm status, but dogs should be tested prior to starting any type of heartworm preventive. Talk with your veterinarian about the option that best suits you and your pet. And if you have never had your dog tested, don’t put it off any longer!

Other Pesky Parasites

Dogs and cats should also be tested at least annually for parasites other than heartworms, including hookworms and roundworms, all of which can cause unpleasant gastrointestinal problems in your pet. If your pets go outside, ask your vet if they should be tested even more frequently because they are more likely to come in contact with birds, rodents, dirt or water that might be contaminated with worm eggs.

If your pet has parasites, your veterinarian may prescribe a deworming medication. Today’s dewormers are safe, effective and easy to administer. Fortunately, many heartworm medications also protect against other parasites. In some cases, the range of protection can be the determining factor when deciding which preventive is best for your pet. Talk to your vet about your options.

Giardia is another pest that can make your pet feel bad. Giardia organisms can be passed in the feces of infected animals, so food, soil and water (stagnant water or even freshwater sources) can become contaminated. Under the right conditions, Giardia cysts can remain infective in the environment for months, so talk to your vet about your pet's exposure risk. Giardia is treatable with medication, but some pets need to be treated more than once.

Finally, no list of outdoor pests would be complete without fleas and ticks. More and more diseases in dogs, cats and people are being associated with bites from ticks and fleas. Talk with your veterinarian about flea prevention options for your dog or cat.

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