Parasites can affect your dog at any stage during his lifetime, and being in his senior years certainly doesn’t make him more immune. If anything, the effects of parasite problems are all more severe since age-related deterioration makes it much harder for his body to fight any sort of disease or health problem. This means that illness can take hold much faster and do more damage in an even shorter space of time. If immediate assistance isn’t sought, the consequences could be severe or even fatal.
Two of the most common parasites to affect the canine community are fleas and heartworms. Here is what you need to know about both, including the best way to protect your senior dog from them.
Fleas are the single, most common external parasite to affect domestic animals in the United States. These tiny, wingless creatures have immense jumping skills and use these to move from host to host where they bury themselves into the fur and bite into the skin to drink the host’s blood. Flea saliva contains toxins that causes allergies in many dogs, and this will make your canine excessively itchy.
There are two main problems with fleas aside from the irritation that they will cause your dog. Firstly, some fleas carry tapeworm larvae which could see your pet infected with this internal parasite. Secondly, while a few fleas may not cause massive blood loss, their short reproductive cycle and the fact that they are difficult to spot mean that small numbers can quickly grow. A heavy infestation of fleas can cause your dog to become anemic, particularly if she is a small breed. They are also notoriously hard to get rid of, usually requiring repetitive cycles of treatment for both your dog and home to totally destroy the infestation.
Fortunately, while fleas are incredibly common, it is also very easy to prevent them. There are dozens of different products that can be bought from your veterinarian, pet or even local store. These include:
Your veterinarian will be happy to help you decide which is most practical for your senior dog. However, one of the most important things to remember is that each type of treatment has a specific period of effectiveness. Once outside this period, your dog will be left vulnerable to the parasites once more. Therefore, it is essential that you ‘top-up’ your chosen preventative before it runs out.
In addition to preventative treatments for your dog, there are also a variety of products available that can help to repel fleas from your home and yard. Make sure you follow the instructions provided carefully to ensure that the administration of your chosen product is successful.
Heartworms are a type of internal parasite. This means that they live inside your senior dog’s body, specifically in the blood vessels of his heart and lungs. They are transmitted via the bite of an infected mosquito which transfers heartworm larvae into your dog’s blood stream when it bites him. Over the course of 6 months, these larvae mature into fully adult worms, capable of reproduction. Unless treatment is sought, the number of heartworms will continue to multiply until they start to clog up the blood vessels. This prevents the flow of blood around your dog’s body, causing irreparable damage. Without treatment, heartworms are nearly always fatal.
One of the trickiest aspects of heartworm infestations is the lack of symptoms that they present with. When symptoms do become apparent they often seem mild and can be easily overlooked. This means that in many cases, by the time heartworms are detected, serious damage to the health of the animal has already been done.
Just like for fleas, there are a selection of heartworm preventatives available. These often protect against other types of internal parasites too including roundworms and hookworms. Most preventatives for heartworm are oral medications that are administered monthly, and it is essential that you establish a regular routine for giving them to your older dog so that he not left unprotected at any point. Many veterinarians offer a reminder service for regularly administered medications so make sure you enquire with your vet.
If you would like more advice about the best way to protect your senior dog from flea and heartworm infestations, please do not hesitate to contact our animal clinic in Hoover, AL.