Our warm and humid summers and increasingly milder winters are ideal conditions for parasites. Fleas and ticks are external parasites which can be cause for daily concern in the home. The most common internal parasites are roundworms, tapeworms and heartworm.
Fleas abound in Nova Scotia. Traditionally, fleas make their appearance in the summer and disappear in the winter. However, with increasing frequency we are seeing flea infestation lasting through the winter. Therefore, flea control is becoming a year round procedure. There are various products that are effective for flea control, and which one to use depends on your preference. The most effective flea products are combined with a dewormer. Thus, you achieve flea control and control of internal parasites, including heartworm.
Overall there are two methods: topical (a liquid applied onto the pet's back) or an oral product. The efficacy and pricing of topical and oral product are equivalent. The oral product (a pill) contains a product that control fleas by interrupting their life cycle. Topical products are adulticides, .ie. they kill the adult fleas. All of them may be considered effective for one month after one dose.
We may find it hard to believe that our pets have internal parasites because we do not see the worms in their stool. However, studies done at the IWK hospital in Halifax revealed that 12% – 25% of children are exposed to internal parasites from dogs. Gastrointestinal worms stick to the inside of the intestine and lay thousands of eggs in the animal's stool. From the stool they are able to infect other animals, including humans. Combination products for flea control and internal parasite control are effective to eliminate gastrointestinal parasites (excluding tapeworms, which require specialized products). When the product is given once a month, you may protect your pet (and yourself) permanently from internal and external parasites.
Ticks are a bit more complicated because they are resistant to the flea products. Their treatment requires specific products. Fortunately, ticks like it warm but not hot, so they appear only in the spring and late summer. There are also products available that combine flea and tick control.
Tapeworms are rare in dogs but very common in cats. Cats become infected with tapeworms from eating mice and birds. There are topical and oral products to control tapeworms in cats. Topical products are advantageous as it eliminates the fight to get your cat to swallow the pill.