German Shepherd Dog and cat togetherThe spring rains and warmer temperatures mean that it is time to think seriously about parasites and protecting our pets. Fleas, ticks, and heartworm are all especially bad this time of year, and pets that aren’t protected by a monthly parasite preventative are at risk.

These parasites are more than just a nuisance. All can pose serious threats to your pet’s health and, in some cases, even be fatal. Find out what your pet is up against when it comes to these parasites, and how you can help.


Fleas are more than just an itchy nuisance for your pet. They can be an issue for you and your family when the fleas on your pet infest your house, including your furniture, linens and carpets. Everyone in your home is then at risk of being bitten by these pesky parasites.

For your pet, flea bites can trigger a painful allergy. Their relentless scratching, caused by an allergic reaction to the flea’s saliva (flea bite allergic dermatitis), can lead to open sores (commonly called hot spots). These hot spots run the risk of becoming infected which creates additional health issues.

In addition to the discomfort of non-stop itching, a pet with fleas is at greater risk of other diseases such as anemia and tapeworm.


Ticks are usually not as prolific as fleas, but the diseases they carry are extremely serious to pets and people alike. These diseases include:

  • Lyme disease
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
  • Ehrlichia

Ticks are nature’s hitchhikers, and are commonly found in tall grasses and low-lying branches, lying in wait for a warm-blooded food source to come by. In addition to your pet’s monthly parasite preventative (see below), you should be vigilant about checking your pet (and yourself) for ticks after being outdoors, especially in the spring and fall when environmental conditions are ideal for these blood-sucking parasites.

If you do find a tick, remove it immediately using a pair of fine-pointed tweezers. Pull the tick straight out of your pet’s skin without twisting and without popping the tick. You can either burn the tick or drown it in alcohol, but no other method of disposal will guarantee its demise.


Heartworms pose a very serious threat to your pet’s health, and kill tens of thousands of Texas pets each year. In fact, Texas leads the nation in the number of confirmed cases of heartworms in cats and dogs.

Heartworms are parasites that resemble a piece of spaghetti, and grow in the right side of the heart, where your pet’s important blood vessels are found. They are transmitted to your pet through the bite of an infected mosquito, making both heartworm preventatives and mosquito abatement a must.

While there is a heartworm treatment available for dogs that become infected, it is both risky and expensive. Sadly, there is no treatment for heartworm-infected cats, making it a truly fatal disease for our feline friends.

The good news is that you can protect your pet from heartworms year-round for most of their life for less than it costs to treat a case of heartworms just once. The seriousness of heartworms makes prevention a no brainer.

Preventing Fleas, Ticks, and Heartworms

Thankfully, just as with heartworms, fleas and ticks can be easily prevented through the use of a monthly preventative. Ideally, a preventative should be administered year-round for it to be most effective, but don’t let that stop you from starting protection for your pet immediately.

If your pet is not currently on a year round parasite preventative for fleas, ticks, and heartworms, please call us for an appointment. It doesn’t make sense to trust your four-legged best friend’s health, and perhaps life, to do-it-yourself at-home or over-the-counter remedies. With so much at stake, a veterinarian-approved preventative is the best way to keep your pet safe.