Angie's List: Keeping pets healthy during the summer

Summer is here and our pets are spending more time outdoors, which can put them at risk for fleas and other harmful parasites.

The good news is that pet owners can prevent these problems before they start.

Popping pills is actually being pro-active with your pup.

"For heartworm, each one of them get a pill,” pet owner Joe Kaiser said. “And on the flea and tick we put it back here on their shoulder blades."

Joe Kaiser says he knows firsthand the important of protecting his two dogs each month.

"Being a volunteer at the humane society I see too many animals with heartworm coming in with fleas and ticks and I see this and I feel so sorry for them because they are suffering," Kaiser added.

Angie’s List Founder Angie Hicks: "Especially during these summer months preventative care for your pets is important when it comes to parasites because it's very easy for them to pick up fleas, for example. The treatment is much more expensive than the preventative maintenance is."

There are three common parasites pet owners should be aware of. Fleas are the most common.

"It takes about three months for a flea egg to develop into a flea adult so the adults that you're seeing on your pet today are laying eggs that aren't going to hatch for another three months,” veterinarian Dr. Greg Magnusson said.

Fleas can jump up to 2 feet in the air, which makes your four-legged friend's fur their personal breeding ground.

"They can make pets who are allergic to fleas very sick as far as their skin is concerned,” Magnusson added. “Flea allergy dermatitis is one of our most common presenting signs in the spring and summer."

And heads up indoor-cat owners, even if your feline friend never takes a single step outdoors, humans can easily track fleas in from outdoors.

"The important thing to keep in mind when it comes to pet and parasites is they don't just impact your pet,” Hicks said. “For example, recently heard from a woman who had an indoor cat and the cat got out one day and came back with fleas. So, not only did she have to treat the pet, but she also had to try to rid her home of fleas as well, which is not an easy task."

Heartworms are spread by mosquitoes.

"A mosquito will suck blood out of an infected dog or cat and fly over to a neighbor's house and then take a second blood meal off that dog or cat and inject the worms into that pet," Magnusson added.

Preventing heartworm disease is much easier than treating it.

A monthly chewable can help protect your pet from heartworms, but you'll need to obtain a prescription from your vet.

Another parasite a pet can pick up from the outdoors is ticks.

Vets suggest checking your dog regularly for ticks since they can transmit lyme disease.

"Most of our ticks we find from dogs that aren't necessarily hiking in wooded areas, but are just in their backyard,” Magnusson advised.

There are several effective products on the market today that protect against all three of these parasites.

To ensure your pet's protection, experts suggest not skipping a dose.

Talk to your veterinarian about the best prevention for you and your pet.

With warmer temperatures come new outdoor considerations. Prepare your furry friend by protecting them from parasites.

The research team at Angie's List, the nation's leading provider of consumer reviews , asked highly rated veterinarians about common parasites and how to prevent them.

Hinder heartworms
• While you should administer heartworm prevention medication year-round, it's especially vital that you give your pet a preventive when the weather gets warmer. Heartworm, a parasitic worm that lives in the heart and pulmonary arteries of an infected animal, spreads through mosquitoes.
• Preventing heartworm disease in dogs is much easier than treating it, a process that usually takes a series of injections, hospitalization and exercise restriction. Some cats can fight off the disease themselves, but no approved treatments exist in the U.S. for feline heartworm.
• Dog or cat heartworm preventives come in the form of a monthly chewable. However, you'll need to obtain a prescription from your veterinarian , who may require a heartworm test before supplying the medication.

Make fleas flee
• Fleas, parasites that feed on blood, can jump up to 2 feet in the air, which makes your four-legged friend's fur their personal breeding ground.
• Flea bites itch, which can lead to excessive scratching, licking and biting at the skin. In addition to skin irritation, fleas can cause hair loss and tapeworms in both cats and canines. Dogs with particularly bad reactions to fleas may get hot spots, or red, itchy spots on the skin that often appear moist and oozing.
• Even if your feline friend never takes a single step outdoors, you should still administer flea preventives since humans easily track fleas in from outdoors.
• Flea preventives may be administered in pill form or through a topical treatment. Some brands offer both flea and heartworm prevention.

Turn away ticks
• Ticks can transmit Lyme disease and other illness to dogs. Cats can also contract sicknesses similar to Lyme disease.
• Signs of Lyme disease in dogs include lameness from inflammation in their joints, lack of appetite and depression. If the disease progresses, it can damage the kidneys.
• A vet can treat the disease with antibiotics, but your dog may be left with lingering joint pain
• If you live in an area with high tick infestations, such as in southern states or heavily wooded areas of the Northeast, be sure to treat your pet.
• To prevent ticks, apply a topical treatment ¬- most flea preventives also kill ticks ¬- or fit them with a tick collar.

Talk to your vet
There are very effective products that protect against all of these parasites at a fraction of the cost for treating their effects and getting rid of them. The best source for these products is your veterinarian. He or she is has extensive knowledge of the parasite life cycles and the products used to protect our pets and our environment.

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