Fleas, Ticks, & Heartworms – oh my!

You know what gets me down? You know, super bummed and sad-like? Fleas, ticks and heart worms, man, that’s what!

My parents don’t want me to be dealing with that stuff either, so they give me Sentinel for heartworm. In case you’re a new dog friend- heartworms are transmitted by mosquito bites. Heartworms have now been found in all 50 states of our union. Historically states like Arizona didn’t really have them but now thanks to irrigation there is more water for mosquitos to breed in. Once we dogs get bitten by an infected mosquito it takes about 7 months for the larvae to mature to full grown heartworms. They can grow up to 12 inches long, live 5-7 years, and a dog can get up to 250!! GROSS! The worms crowd the heart and lungs, cause difficulty breathing and moving and can eventually lead to death in most dogs. So basically something you don’t want your sidekick to get.

My family treats me with Sentinel Flavor Tabs which not only protect against heartworms, but also fleas, roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms. I won’t go into what all of those are (just ask google), but believe me they’re nothing you want to deal with. Sentinel also makes an option called Spectrum which protects against everything listed above plus tapeworms. My parents decided this was sufficient for me and try to keep me from getting into animal carcasses (which is how my grandparents’ dog Libby got them- diving into a deer carcass was something she loved to do!)

I don’t mind the taste of the flavor tabs but much prefer taking it once per month with a spoonful of peanut butter. Goes right down that way. Got some on my nose there.

Wait a minute, I thought we were done with all this?!? Come on, mom!

This is the Frontline Plus which takes care of the tick and chewing lice portion of protection. The only thing my mom doesn’t like is there is unnecessary overlap with the fleas, and she’s currently researching more natural methods of protecting against these three things for those who may want to go that route. If she finds anything out I will let you know!

When I was a little pup we lived on 13 acres in the mountains and I ended up with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and what the vet thought was Lyme disease so we don’t mess around with ticks. This was even with a tick preventative- our area was just so infested that I must have encountered a super tick or ticks that were resistant to the pesticide. But that doesn’t keep my parents from continuing to try to protect me from ticks.

I mean, let’s face it– no one in the history of ever has said that they love fleas and ticks and hope to have them around. Have you ever seen a picture of a flea? (Google it, I dare you) Ugly! Not to mention they live by eating their hosts’ blood. Oh and did I mention they’ve been around since the early Cretaceous period (that was about 145 MILLION years ago) so they’re not going anywhere people! Fleas are wingless, but can jump better than LeBron James – jumping vertically up to 7 inches and horizontally to 13 inches. That makes them the second best known jumper in the animal kingdom. What does this all mean for pet owners? You all are dealing with something that has been around practically forever and survived whatever wiped out the dinosaurs, that is a nuisance that sucks blood and can really jump. Once you have been bitten, let the itching begin! Fun times, right? Oh and I didn’t mention the best part– they are vectors for some serious diseases. You know, little known (sarcasm) diseases like the Bubonic Plague and 3 pandemics including Black Death, along with typhus, parasites (including tapeworm…yay!), and other diseases I’d rather not mention because I don’t know how to pronounce them and they just sound gross.  Take my word for it– it’s such a bad situation that Americans spend $2.8 billion annually at the vet and $1.6 billion at the groomer trying to rid their pets of these horrid pests. Glad I just have to sit here and have some Frontline squirted between my shoulder blades once a month.

On a lighter note…..ticks, man! They are also small, can jump, and like to suck blood.  Not a fan of these– my dad has to get the tweezers out and it is precarious trying to get all of the tick out once they latch on. As if it wasn’t gross enough having something LATCH on to your skin and suck your blood, they carry horrible diseases too. There’s Anaplasmosis, which has flu-like symptoms and is caused by a bacteria; Babesiosis, which also can cause flu-like symptoms in humans and can be life-threatening for certain individuals (i.e. immunocompromised; elderly); and Erlichiosis, which is another bacterial disease causing aches and fever in humans, and some of its symptoms are lameness, abnormal bleeding and bruising, fever, and lethargy in dogs.  

Another disease carried by ticks is Lyme disease, which has achieved so much notoriety because of how terrible it is for dogs and humans. In humans it can cause heart palpitations, neck stiffness, facial palsy, joint pain, problems with short term memory, inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, and the list goes on – find out more at cdc.gov. In dogs it can be fatal by causing kidney disease and death, but also fever, lethargy, swollen lymph nodes, and lameness. The scary thing is that onset of symptoms can be delayed 2-5 months, so it makes it hard for owners to know what the cause of the illness is. I had a dog dad friend who lost his beautiful golden retriever from this awful disease because he didn’t see the tick and didn’t know what was making his buddy sick. Once his dog went into kidney failure he died shortly thereafter; it was devastating. There is a blood test called the C6 test that can diagnose Lyme before symptoms even appear, but the key is getting your buddy tested during the right window which can be tricky if there are no symptoms and if you don’t happen to see the tick. The black-legged tick is small, and the larva (which typically transmit the disease in humans) is even smaller.

Last, but not least, there’s Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. As I mentioned earlier I also had this as a young lad, and had to go on an awful regimen of horse pills that couldn’t be masked by the peanut butter my dad slathered on them. Unfortunately symptoms are sometimes vague and non-specific. Dogs can present with symptoms including poor appetite, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle or joint pain, fever. There is a blood test that can diagnose the disease called the Indirect Immunoflourescent Assay (IFA) test and it is considered the gold standard. The only issue I see with the test is you have to wait a few weeks between blood draws, and to me that is wasted time where you could be treating while the disease progresses. The key for a good prognosis is early detection and treatment (those horse pills I mentioned), so again, time is of the essence. If it were me (again) and my vet had an inkling that I had Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, I’d go ahead and take the treatment, as awful as it was. Thank goodness it seems it was caught early in me and I am a lively 9 year old now!

Hopefully I don’t have to say why trying to repel these awful bugs is so important– some of these diseases are just plain terrible.  And it is probably going to be less expensive to try to repel fleas and ticks then to pay for the vet visit, medications, etc, when a disease is contracted.  Not to mention the risk that your beloved pet could suffer serious illness, or worse, death. I would like to note again that these products attempt to repel fleas and ticks but aren’t guaranteed, as far as chemicals go, however, Frontline is one of the best out there.

Just a little application in between the shoulder blades and under all that fur and I’m ready until next month!

If you are now itching or feeling like something is crawling all over you, sorry about that. It’s just too important of a topic for me to gloss over. When my mom gets more information about natural treatments and has me field test them I will let you know. She and Dad are pretty vigilant about checking me for ticks and would like to lay off the chemicals, but until they find a better solution this is what we use. Sorry this isn’t a more glowing endorsement but sometimes that’s the way things are. I pride myself on my honesty, it’s a good character trait for a dog. 

Please feel free to comment and let me know what your experience has been. Have any of you tried natural treatments?