Internal Parasites


This is a parasite that lives in the bloodstream and heart. It is transmitted by mosquitoes and is eventually fatal if untreated.

If your pet catches this, the treatment is frequently successful but uncomfortable for the pet and fairly expensive.

Good news! Heartworm disease is EASILY preventable by giving your pet medication every month to kill any baby parasites they have encountered the previous month. Your pet should be heartworm free prior to starting the prevention so your vet should do a blood test to make sure it is safe.

Most everyone forgets to give this, or their pet secretly spits it out, or runs out unexpectedly at some time during their pet’s life? Please be honest with your vet about this and get a blood test when appropriate. We want to keep your dog safe from this one, it is a nasty!

Gut Parasites

There are a whole bunch of these out there that are more common than we would like to think. Some are worms but there are a few other types around. They are mostly transmitted by contact with parasite eggs in infected poop. A few of them are transmitted by fleas, and some even by eating other dead animals.

They are pretty gross to think about because of their association with poop but even clean pets and homes can catch them. They sometimes cause GI troubles like diarrhea or vomiting but not always.

Many pets carry them around and don’t show any signs. Some of them can spread to people.

They can be challenging to get rid of because they like to hang out in the area and reinfect pets even after they have been treated. Luckily, many of the heartworm preventatives will kill off most of the common poop transmitted parasites. The most common players are: hookworms, roundworms, coccidia, giardia, tapeworms, and whipworms.

External Parasites


These are tricky little bugs that latch onto your pet and try to get a blood meal. Unfortunately they can be carriers of bacterial diseases like Lyme and all of its friends like Ehrlichia, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Anaplasma.

There are several species of ticks and they vary in how commonly you find them by region and season and the local tree cover and wildlife populations. While the preventative is extremely helpful and it makes your pet less tasty to ticks it does not completely prevent tick exposure.

If you go hiking or live in an area with heavy ticks make sure to do tick checks on your pet too. They like to hide out in tricky spots like the ears, armpits, and in between the toes. They are very hard to find because of the fur and some can be very small.

Carefully remove the tick, including the head then flush it! They like to crawl out of the trash.

Let your vet know if your pet has had tick exposure when you go to an annual check-up or if your pet is ill. Not all ticks carry disease, but it will help your vet to keep it in mind if your pet is having troubles. Luckily using monthly preventative will help if you are in a tick thick zone.


Even clean houses can get fleas. Even all indoor pets can get fleas. I’ve seen it.

These are small fast moving bugs that seem to multiply even faster. Some regions of the country have huge populations of fleas while others it is only seasonal or during periods of heavy rain. Any temperature above the freezing mark can have active adult fleas.

The eggs they lay – and they lay a lot! – can hide out in many areas and hatch up to several years down the road.

Luckily they can be strongly discouraged by using some of the newer products out there. The most effective ones seem to be the ones you can get from your vet and are used monthly. Just because you use the products does not mean your are home free.

I have seen breakthrough occasionally through no fault of the owner or vet. Sometimes the pet spits the product out, sometimes they get wet right after it is applied, sometimes they encounter an overwhelming number of fleas: whatever the reason, I find it is always nice to do spot checks for them when you are loving on your dog anyway.

Look at their fur down near its base, especially right in the area where the tail joins the back. If there is dirt there, get a little bit of the dirt and put it on a lightly damp paper towel. If the paper towel around the dirt turns rust red-you probably have fleas or have encountered a flea recently.

You may want to call your vet and decide what to do. Maybe a new flea product, maybe a bath, maybe nothing.

Don’t forget to think about the environment and what you may want to do to help bring down the number of eggs that could be in the house.

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