Posts in Category: pet parasites

Bites and Stings: Insects of Summer

So now that the weather is getting a lot nicer, you want to go outside more, take long walks with your four-legged family members, and have all the outdoor barbecues you can have, right? But what are you going to do about all those pesky insects that try to suck, bite, and sting all the fun out of summer nights? Not only are they a nuisance for you, but they can be just as annoying, and potentially deadly for our pets, too! Read on to learn about some of the various harmful insects, and what you can to combat them and the diseases they can transfer.


Mosquitoes: Passing on Deadly Worms

Mosquito bites are no fun for us, but are even worse for our pets Screen Shot 2016-05-14 at 1.25.53 PMbecause of something called heartworms. Heartworms are spread through mosquitoes that carry infective larvae, and are a potentially fatal issue for dogs and cats. The heartworm larvae move from the site of the mosquito bite through a host’s body until they reach the heart and lungs. Once they are mature, adult heartworms can get to be 12 inches long, and will cause a significant decrease in blood flow throughout the body. Depending on the severity of the disease, it can possibly lead to death if not taken care of early on.

Heartworm preventatives such as Heartgard, Revolution, and Sentinel are very instrumental in helping before any bite occurs, but getting a heartworm test and treatment at your local AAHA Accredited Veterinary Hospital will absolutely help if your dog or cat already has heartworms. Signs of heartworm disease can include: mild persistent cough, reluctance to exercise, fatigue after moderate activity, decreased appetite, and weight loss.” These symptoms won’t necessarily show early on in dogs, and in cats they can be very subtle, or very sudden.

Fleas & Ticks: All it Takes is One Bite

Screen Shot 2016-05-14 at 1.25.04 PMFleas: These tiny brown bugs like to hide in cooler, shady areas like shrubs, trees, and under leaves. Despite not having wings, fleas can jump up to two feet high; so when your dog walks by, that’s when they will hop on, latch in, and start feeding on blood. The danger of fleas is that they can bring about tapeworms, skin infections, and other serious diseases. Combating fleas is as easy as using monthly preventatives such as Frontline or Nexgard, avoiding tall grassy/shady areas when walking, using a flea comb, and washing your pet’s bedding often.

Ticks: Ticks also like to hang out Screen Shot 2016-05-14 at 1.25.16 PMin shady, wooded areas, waiting for an unwary host to attach to. Once they are attached, ticks feed on blood (including you), which means they can directly transmit deadly diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease, and babesiosis from just one bite! You can help deter tick bites by also using monthly preventatives, avoiding tall grassy/shady areas when walking, and whenever you are done with your walk make sure to check your dog (and yourself) for any little bumps because it might be a tick!

Bees & Wasps: More than a Sting!

Bee and wasps are a bit easier to avoid because they usually have visible nests and in general they’re the most noticeable bug. If you’ve got a curious pet then you should keep an eye out. Most stings tend to occur on the face or nose because that’s how our pets investigate. They may even get stung in the mouth or throat if they end up catching the bug; and those stings can be dangerous because the poison from the sting can    cScreen Shot 2016-05-14 at 1.24.47 PMause the throat to swell. Other severe reactions to look out for include weakness, difficulty breathing and excessive swelling at the sting site. If you see any of these signs you need to go to your veterinarian ASAP. Most of these severe reactions occur with multiple stings, but always give your veterinarian a call and make sure to monitor the reaction to make sure it does not worsen. All cases will be different, so always consult your veterinarian before administering any medication or remedy, such as a weak water/baking soda mixture or an ice pack.

Tips to Decrease Insect Exposure

  • Ask your veterinarian about monthly Flea/Tick preventatives like oral doses, liquid, and collars.

  • Close screened windows/doors when inside so flying bugs don’t come inside.

  • Use bug repellent on yourself, and only pet-safe repellent on your furry friends.

Cited Sources:

American Heartworm Society
ASPCA: Fleas and Ticks
Hill’s Pet

Contributed by:
Screen Shot 2016-05-14 at 1.47.26 PMTeresa Mundy
Boarding Team Member
Social Media Coordinator

Internal Parasites: You Should Know if Your Pet Has Them

Tick-borne disease agents, intestinal parasites, heartworms . . . these hideous pests are just some of the parasites that can infect our pets, inflicting discomfort, pain, and possibly dangerous illness. Parasites are located nearly everywhere in the environment, so there are many different ways your pet can get infected. Something as simple as eating grass or licking paws after a walk outdoors poses a potential risk of your pet picking up a parasite. So what do you do? Prevention is key.

How Pets Get Infected

Dogs, cats, and other mammals can be exposed to parasites in various ways, starting at birth. These are just some of the most common sources of exposure:

  • Puppies can be infected from their mother during pregnancy or nursing.
  • Parasite eggs present in soil can get into our homes on the soles of our shoes.
  • Potting soil purchased for indoor plants can host parasite eggs.
  • Cats and dogs can contract parasites from ingesting rodents, fleas, or other insects.

Parasites such as the worms that infect dogs—including roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, and whipworms—live in the intestines, so that’s the first place your vet will look for them. They only shed eggs intermittently, so pets with parasites can have a “healthy” stool sample that doesn’t reveal any evidence of parasites. If left unchecked, parasites can stay undetected for a long time. It is crucial to test for parasites at least once a year and to give your pet a monthly heartworm preventive that also treats and controls intestinal parasites. Puppies and kittens should always be dewormed.

Symptoms of Infection

It is very important to know whether any of your pets may be carrying parasites. This is not only to avoid illness in your pet, but also to avoid transmission to family members. As carriers of zoonotic disease (disease that can be passed to humans from animals), parasites can cause serious problems in people, such as blindness—especially in children (roundworms), and migration under the skin (hookworms). Below are some of the symptoms to look out for in your pet:

  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • weight loss
  • coughing
  • anemia

Heartworm Disease

Heartworms are a type of internal parasite that lives in the major blood vessels of the lungs. Their name comes from the fact that in severe cases they can migrate to the heart. Heartworms are transmitted to animals by mosquitoes, making heartworm disease endemic in this area (it is always present in our local environment due to our climate and wildlife). Dogs are especially at risk because they frequently encounter mosquitoes outdoors, but animals that stay inside (inside cats and dogs) can also be infected. As most of us know from our own experience, mosquitoes can easily get inside our homes. Currently, there is no feline heartworm treatment available, and treatment in dogs can be quite costly. Heartworms are fatal if not detected before they enter the advanced stages of the disease.

Treatment and Prevention

In the case of many kinds of worms, treatment is given orally (by mouth) or in a shot. Many of these drugs are considered “broad-spectrum” because they’re effective in treating a wide range of parasites, including worms that live in the gut. This is the case for many monthly heartworm preventatives, which contain medication that helps prevent the more common intestinal parasites. Keeping your environment free of dirt, feces, and vermin is another important step in prevention parasites from affecting you and you pets. Standing water outside your home (such as in a bird bath) can attract mosquitoes to come lay their eggs, so eliminating those sources is important.

All pets are at risk of exposure to internal parasites, but there are measures we can take to help protect them, and us. Contact your veterinarian to discuss an individualized parasite prevention program tailored to your own pet’s needs.

More Information:

Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC):

CAPC brochure:

Cesar Milan:

CAH Blog: Parasites: The Hidden Intruders

Centers for Disease Control:


Contributed by Dr. Marsha Pollock, DVM


Flea, Tick, and Heartworm Prevention During Winter


It’s cold and there’s snow outside, so who’s thinking about fleas, ticks, and heartworms? Well, it might be cold now, but remember a couple of weeks ago when the temperature was in the 60s and you let your pets outside to enjoy some fresh air and sunshine . . .

The fact of it is, dogs and cats can get fleas, ticks, and heartworms almost any time of year in our area, so treatment shouldn’t be seasonal; it should be maintained all year round. Read on to learn more about how these pests survive the cold and why your pet should be treated year-round.


shutterstock_64863352While ideal temperatures for the growth and reproduction of fleas range between 65 and 80 degrees, flea pupae can remain dormant for over a year—cocooned until their surroundings have reached ideal temperatures. As long as an adult flea can find a suitable host to feed from, it can stay warm and healthy throughout the entire cold season. The flea can even survive temperatures in the upper 30s. Anyone who has had a pet with fleas knows that they are not just very unpleasant invaders, but can be very difficult to eliminate once they have established themselves in your home.


shutterstock_206365657Like fleas, ticks are capable of surviving winter temperatures if they can find a suitable host to feed on and use for warmth (i.e., you or your pets). In fact, ticks can comfortably live in temperatures hovering around 45 degrees. Just like for humans, the biggest threat for our pets when it comes to ticks are the diseases they spread, such as Lyme disease. In the Northeast, warmer spring temperatures are leading to an earlier emergence of the blacklegged ticks that carry Lyme disease and other tick-borne pathogens. At the same time, milder weather is allowing ticks to spread into new regions. See the map below. You can also read more about this at



Heartworms live inside a host animal, regardless of the season or temperature. There they mature into adults, mate, and produce offspring. Left untreated, their numbers can increase to as many as several hundred in a single animal’s body. Heartworm disease causes lasting damage to the heart, lungs, and arteries, and can affect the animal’s health and quality of life long after the parasites are gone. It can take up to 6 months for a dog to test positive after it has been infected, so prevention is key. You can read more about the affects of heartworm disease on your pet here.


In an area like ours, where the weather can change from one day to the next, your best bet is to continue monthly treatment for your pet all year round. For fleas and ticks there are a number of different treatments available. While it is hard to make a recommendation that fits all situations, we have seen very good results from the newer-generation oral (taken by mouth) products such as NexGard®. One benefit of orally administered products is that they do not get degraded by bathing or swimming, are much safer in households with young children, and have new active ingredients that fleas and ticks are not yet resistant to.

Heartworm preventatives, such as Heartgard®, Sentinel®, and Revolution® are very effective at preventing heartworms and also treat and prevent some intestinal parasitic diseases like hookworm, roundworm, and whipworm. Each preventative has its own advantages, so we look at each patient’s health and individual risk factors to determine which preventative we recommend.

About Pet Medications

Don’t forget to discuss preventatives with your veterinarian at your pet’s next annual physical, or make an appointment now — before the weather really warms up — to discuss flea, tick, and heartworm prevention. Some veterinarians and animal hospitals allow you to re-order regular medications using an online pharmacy, as we do at Centreville Animal Hospital. In addition to ordering convenience, these sites often offer coupons and specials.

Additional Resources:







Contributed by Zach Buchanan, Veterinary Assistant

Safety During the Dog Days
of Summer

shutterstock_184091969It’s mid-summer and you and your dog are restless so you want to go outside and spend some quality time together. Great idea! There are so many simple pleasures to enjoy with your dog during the warmer months. Just remember that during these “dog days of summer” you need to take some precautions to ensure your pet’s well being. Below are some activities and tips that will help you keep your dog safe and happy this summer.

ACTIVITY: Swimming and Water Playshutterstock_152357381

For many dogs, swimming is a wonderful way to exercise and have a blast while keeping cool. Not all dogs enjoy the water, though, so take your cues from your pet and don’t force it.


Most beaches have leash laws, but if you’re lucky enough to find a watering hole where you can let your friend off-leash, it’s still important to supervise your dog. Be aware of other dogs and owners to avoid any potential conflicts. A doggy lifejacket can help keep your mind at ease while your pup plays in the water. While the water will keep your pet from overheating, make sure your dog still has access to shade and drinking water so he or she can take breaks and recharge. It also important not to let your dog drink salty water, which will cause vomiting, or stagnant water, which can harbor bacteria that cause dangerous diseases, such as Leptospirosis.

ACTIVITY: Summer WalksiStock_000005141424Medium

Walks can be either a calming or energizing experience for you and your canine, but avoid taking your pet out on very hot days and in the midday sun. 


Hot weather can quickly cause dehydration and heatstroke in pets. Dogs don’t sweat, so adequate water and shade are vital to keep cool. Playing fetch, Frisbee, and tug-of-war are great ways to engage them in outside playtime, but don’t go too hard too quickly. Walking and playing at night or in the morning can reduce your dog’s exposure to the heat. Also, steer clear of hot sand, paved roads, and driveways as these can burn your pet’s paws. At night, don’t forget to make both of you visible to passing vehicles by wearing bright colors and/or reflective material. LED light harnesses, leashes, and collars are also available at most pet stores.

ACTIVITY: Anything Outdoorsshutterstock_200985227

While you and your dog are enjoying the warmer weather, so are the fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes, especially in wet, wooded areas. The easy way to deal with this is to make sure your pet is up-to-date on his or her preventative products.


Only preventatives purchased through your veterinarian are guaranteed, and prevention is often much cheaper than treatment. For instance, treating for heartworms costs more than several years’ worth of heartworm preventatives. Prevention is the much better option.

shutterstock_159484421ACTIVITY: Driving, Traveling

Many dog owners enjoy traveling with their pets, whether to the local park or to the beach on vacation. While this can be a great experience for all, it does require some extra effort to make sure your pet is properly taken care of.



Never, ever leave your dog in a hot car! The temperature in a parked car rises very quickly. Even with the windows cracked or the door open, leaving your pet in the car could result in organ damage, heatstroke, and death. Don’t gamble with your dog’s life. Signs that your dog is overheated include excessive panting and drooling. Make sure he or she gets frequent water breaks (many dogs love ice cubes in their water bowl) and has a cool place to rest out of the sun and heat.

For more hot weather tips for you and your dog, check out the links below:

Pool Safety for Dogs: 

Frozen Yoghurt Dog Treat Recipe: 

Biking with Your Dog:

Dogs at the Beach:

Running with Your Dog:

Making Your Garden Safe for Pets:



Contributed by Melissa Wilmoth, Client Care Specialist 



Parasites: The Hidden Intruders


Most of our pets currently have, have had, or will have internal parasites at some point in their lives. A parasite is an organism that lives on or inside a host and gets its food from or at the expense of its host. Sounds awful, doesn’t it? Don’t worry—your pet won’t die from internal parasites. In fact, most pets do not show any symptoms at all. But those parasites can affect you, so learn what the symptoms and causes are so you can protect yourself and your family from infection.

roundwormbellyUnfortunately, clinical signs of parasites become evident only when they are present in large numbers. The most common signs of internal parasites are vomiting and diarrhea, and they may appear in pets that are otherwise normal. Puppies and kittens also may get a “pot belly” (enlarged abdomen) due to a large number of parasites.

Puppies, kittens, and stray animals are most at risk because parasites can be transmitted through a mother’s milk during nursing. Infection also occurs when an animal ingests the eggs or larvae (microscopic worms) in the feces of another animal, in a water source, or in the environment itself, such as grass or bare dirt in a dog park. This can happen various ways, such as licking paws after stepping in feces or dirt that is infected.


Image Source:

Most parasites have a favorite species and stick to it—dogs get dog parasites, cats get cat parasites—but sometimes parasites do not end up in the right host, like when a human gets a dog or cat parasite. These are called zoonotic parasites. The potential for contracting a parasite is very low in the United States, but it is a greater threat in third world countries. Below is a list of those and how they can be contracted.

Parasites Transmitted through Food

  • Trichinella—by eating undercooked beef and pork
  • Baylisascaris—by eating something that has come in contact with raccoon feces

Parasites You Can Get from Your Pet

  • Giardia—from dogs and cats that ingest a contaminated water source
  • Tapeworms—from ingesting a flea that is caring a tapeworm larva, the same way your dog or cat does
  • imagesRoundworms—from dogs and cats that ingest fecal material; a roundworm larva ingested by a human can migrate out of the intestinal tract and end up in any organ or the eyes, potentially causing major problems
  • Toxoplasmosis—from infected cat fecal material, or infected dirt (after gardening do not eat until you have washed your hands)

IMPORTANT NOTE FOR PREGNANT WOMEN: This parasite can cause severe birth defects to your baby. If at all possible, do not clean the litter box. If you must do it yourself, wear rubber gloves and clean it daily because the eggs hatch and become infectious to humans 1-5 days after the cat has shed them.

  • Hookworms—from ingested fecal material; once the eggs hatch outside a host, such as in the dirt, they can bury into the skin causing discomfort but not any disease (typically you notice a red squiggly line that goes away in 2-3 days)
  • Cryptosporidium—by drinking from a contaminated water source (either human or pet)

Keep Your Family Safe from Parasites

  • Make sure your pet is under a veterinarian’s care and gets a fecal test every 6 months (even your indoor cat)
  • Practice the Four Ps: Pick up Pet Poop Promptly, and dispose of it properly. Be sure to wash your hands after handling pet waste.
  • Wash your hands frequently, especially after touching animals, and avoid contact with animal feces
  • Follow proper food-handling procedures to reduce the risk of transmission from contaminated food
  • For people with weakened immune systems, be especially careful of contact with animals that could transmit these infections

Veterinary care for internal parasites includes testing and prescribing the correct medication to be given at home. Since parasites are living organisms, medications generally have to be given in two or more courses, each 2-3 weeks apart, to catch any parasites that hatched after the first course was given. Contact your veterinarian if you suspect a parasite infestation in your pet.


Puppy Photo:

Centers for Disease Control:


Contributed by Elisa Miller, LVT

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