Parasites do not always cause external symptoms, making
and monthly preventative measures imperative.
Internal and external parasites are more than simple pests—they jeopardize the health of your pet by carrying diseases, damaging organs, and impacting the immune system of an animal, as well as causing extraordinary discomfort. Left untreated, a parasite infestation can lead to grave illness and even death of an animal.
We specialize in heartworm education and medical prevention, as well as treatment for your dog.
Since 1991 the veterinary staff at Harlingen Veterinary Clinic has made heartworm prevention for dogs an important part of our approach to preventive care. A heartworm infection can lead to numerous health problems up to and including early death Therefore, heartworm prevention cannot be ignored. Our team is here to educate you and protect your dog from this terrible disease.
While outdoor playtime certainly offers numerous benefits, it also increases the risk of exposure to heartworm in dogs. This does not mean that dogs are completely safe indoors. It simply means that potential exposure to heartworm infection increases with more exposure to the outdoors.
Heartworm is spread through dogs via bites from infected mosquitos. Living in NJ, the presence of mosquitoes throughout the spring, summer and early fall months means greater chances for your dog to contract heartworms. Once a heartworm infestation occurs, it will become life threatening. Therefore, our goal is to implement a preventive program before your dog is exposed.
Heartworm disease in dogs is a blood-borne parasitic nematode (roundworm) known as Dirofilaria immitis transmitted by mosquitoes.
Upwards of 30 species of mosquitoes can act as heartworm transmitters. Mosquitoes ingest immature heartworm larvae, called microfilariae, by feeding on either an infected cat or dog. The microfilariae develop further for 10 to 30 days in the mosquito’s gut and then enter parts of the mosquito’s mouth.
When an infected mosquito bites a dog, it injects larvae into the dog. The larvae then mature over a period of several months, eventually ending up in the right side of the heart and the pulmonary arteries. Once this occurs, they mature into adult heartworms in dogs, and can reproduce about six months from the time of invasion. At approximately eight months after the invasion, heartworm in dogs begin to produce a new crop of microfilariae that will live in the dog’s blood for about one month. By the time this occurs, most dogs are showing significant heartworm symptoms, and their lives are in danger.
Heartworm symptoms in dogs are divided into four stages. It is important to understand that individual stages are not always clearly identifiable and some stages can overlap, but the following information will help educate you about the four major stages, as well as their accompanying heartworm symptoms. The four clinical stages of heartworm begin when your dog has already become infected and the heartworms are present in the dog’s heart:
Stage 1: In dogs, the first stage of heartworm will typically be symptom free. In this stage the heartworms are present and settling into the heart. However, in stage one the disease has not yet progressed to the point where the heartworms will have produced a new generation of microfilariae and dog’s body will not yet have produced antigens in an amount sufficient for detection.
Stage 2: Stage two of heartworms in dogs is accompanied by moderate symptoms including intolerance for exercise and a more lingering cough. The heartworms have been present long enough in the body for antibody production and probable microfilariae production. During this phase, heartworm disease may be detected with blood tests.
Stage 3: By stage three of heartworms in dogs, the symptoms of the disease will be very noticeable and have a big impact on your dog’s health. Dogs continue to cough and experience fatigue after exercise, may be reluctant to exercise at all, and can have trouble breathing. During this stage, dogs may also cough up blood. By stage three, the disease is quite evident on x-rays. The worms in the heart and large vessels will be obvious on x rays.
Stage 4: Dogs in stage four of heartworm disease have very visible heartworm disease symptoms. These symptoms are accompanied by long-term implications for the dog’s health. These dogs are very ill. The symptoms are similar to Stage 3 but more severe. Dogs will be reluctant to exercise, tired after exercising, and will exhibit a cough. They will probably experience trouble breathing as well. Testing may reveal the impact of the disease in the form of abnormal sounds within the dog’s heart and lungs and an enlarged liver. Even with treatment, this stage of the disease carries a high risk of long term debilitation and possible death.
The severity of heartworms in dogs is directly dependent upon:
- The number of worms present in a dog’s body
- The duration of the incubation
- The response of the infected do, in fighting off the infestation
As heartworm disease progresses through each stage, treatment methods become increasingly invasive. This is a big reason why early detection plays a major role in the options and ability for your dog to recover. Remain aware of any changes in your dog’s behavior. Keep an eye out for any changes in behavior that align with the symptoms of heartworm and if you do find that your dog is displaying symptoms that could be indicative of heartworm, it is important to make a veterinary appointment right away.
Other heartworm symptoms include:
- Fainting Spells
- Right Sided Chronic Heart Failure
- High Blood Pressure
- Rapid Heart Beat
It is important to understand that the symptoms listed above are indicative of advanced stage heartworm disease. Unlike medications that are used to prevent heartworm in dogs, the medications that are used to kill an advanced stage heartworm infection carry a higher rate of potential side effects, can be painful for the dog and are costly to the owner. In addition, the treatment will require considerable downtime for your dog’s normal exercise routine while the dog recovers from the infection.
Heartworm prevention is given in the form of a monthly chewable. The chewables are readily accepted by most dogs as a treat. It is very important that the chewable be given once a month on the same day of the month to make sure that your dog is adequately protected. Side effects of the chewable medication are rare. However, as with any medication, please call if you notice any changes in your dog’s health or behavior.
The first thing to understand is that there is a significant difference between heartworm prevention and heartworm treatment. Prevention is simple to do and are effective in protecting your dog from protecting your dog against heartworm disease. Treatment options are used for dogs that are already sick because they have become infected.
The first step in heartworm treatments is obtaining a diagnosis. Most veterinarians use a battery of tests to determine the presence of heartworms in dogs. The first step in diagnosis of heartworm in dogs is to perform a blood test.
A positive heartworm blood test in the first step in diagnosis. If the blood test comes back positive, then the following tests will also be performed to determine the stage and severity of the disease in order to determine the most appropriate treatment plan:
- A urinalysis, or the testing of a dog’s urine
- An antigen test determines the presence of adult female heartworms
- Radiographs, or X-Rays to view the size and shape of a dog’s heart. This is helpful because many dogs with heartworm develop enlarged pulmonary arteries, or have obstructions in the arteries leading to the lungs
- Ultrasounds allows us directly view the internal structures of the heart and surrounding vessels, in order to assess the condition and function of the heart
During initial heartworm treatments, most patients are hospitalized to receive an adulticide, which is a medication that kills adult heartworms. The microfilariae in the body can be eliminated with a monthly prevention, which can be administered at home.
For more severe cases, such as dogs experiencing thromboembolic complications (in which a blood clot that has formed breaks loose and travels through the bloodstream to clot another vessel), hospitalization may be necessary for a longer period of time while heartworm treatments are administered. In some extreme cases, a surgical procedure may be necessary to remove adult worms from the right heart and pulmonary artery by way of the jugular vein. This procedure is recommended if the infestation consists of a high number of adult worms.
It is important to consult your veterinarian when making preventive care decisions for your dog. This is true for a variety of reasons. There are many over the counter products on the market today that range from ineffective to outright dangerous. Our veterinarians are trained and qualified to help you make the best decisions regarding preventive care and treatment of any health conditions your dog may develop, especially when it comes to parasitic infections.
Prevention and early detection are paramount to survival for some types of parasitic infections.
At Harlingen Veterinary Clinic, we love helping educate our clients about the best detection and prevention methods for worms in dogs, and we pride ourselves on providing our canine patients in and around the Montgomery Township, NJ area with the most current in treatment protocols. Due to their outdoor lifestyles and social natures, most dogs will be at risk of contracting worms throughout their lives. Some of the most common ways to contract worms in dogs include:
- Drinking contaminated milk from the mother during nursing
- Rolling in, sniffing, eating, stepping in or licking contaminated soil
- Consuming infected prey like rodents, birds, and reptiles
- Coming into contact with an infected dog or another infected animal
- Consuming or coming into contact with an infected animal’s feces or vomit
It is very important to understand that worms in dogs can cause severe medical issues and health conditions if left untreated. This is why we recommend discussing a dog worm preventive protocol with your veterinarian. You can learn how to spot some common symptoms of worms in dogs, and also how you can go about preventing the presence and spread of worms in and around your home and family, by reading on.
The following parasites are some of the most common types of dog worms:
- Roundworms: The most common dog worms of all types. Roundworms in dogs grow reach 3-5” long in adulthood, and they resemble a piece of wet spaghetti. Roundworms in dogs can be transmitted via the nursing process, by feeding on an infected animal, or by contact with the infected feces of another animal.
- Tapeworms: Tapeworms in dogs have long and flat ⅛” segmented bodies that can grow to 8 inches in length. Tapeworms in dogs happen when a dog encounters or ingests a host that is carrying tapeworm eggs, like a bird or a flea.
- Hookworms: Hookworms in dogs are the smallest of all common dog worms varieties. Hookworms in dogs reside primarily in the small intestine. They grow to approximately one inch in length and feed on the blood. They can cause life threatening anemia in dogs of all ages, but especially puppies. Hookworms are passed in the feces, and can infect other animals and people too.
- Whipworms: Whipworms in dogs are about ¼” long and reside in the cecum and colon. Whipworms can cause severe damage to these organs, and are considered one of the most harmful dog worms in existence, but are also more geographically distinct than other dog worms.
Of all these common types of dog worms, the two varieties veterinarians see and treat most often are roundworms in dogs and tapeworms in dogs.
Like tapeworms and hookworms, roundworms in dogs nest in intestinal tracts and deposit eggs into a dog’s stool. Because of this, tapeworms in dogs can be detected through microscopic imaging. As we mentioned above, roundworms in dogs can be transmitted via the prenatal and/or nursing process, by feeding on an infected animal, or by contact with the infected feces of another animal.
Roundworm eggs found in one dog’s fecal matter can also be contagious to other dogs. Additionally, several other animal species’ can harbor parasitic eggs that when consumed by a host canine, become roundworms in dogs, including:
If your veterinarian detects the presence of roundworms through a fecal exam and/or other supportive diagnostic tools, he or she will prescribe an oral roundworm treatment.
Unlike adult roundworms, the eggs, or larvae, are incredibly resistant and resilient. They have even been known to survive disinfectants and extreme, harsh environmental conditions. In these cases, removal of a dog’s stool is the best option to prevent reinfection. This can be accomplished by using a 1% bleach, 99% water solution to remove the sticky outer coating of the eggs, which will allow them to be flushed away. However, we do not recommend planning or undertaking such a procedure without first consulting your veterinarian.
Adult worms can usually be seen with the naked eye in the stool versus eggs, which require a microscope. For this reason, we highly recommend making an appointment with your veterinarian if you suspect roundworms in dogs, in order to obtain an accurate diagnosis.
Tapeworms in dogs most commonly come from ingesting a host animal or object that contains tapeworm eggs. Tapeworms attach themselves to a dog’s small intestine by latching onto the wall with a sharp, hook-like oral cavity. Dogs that spend time outdoors are at an increased risk of contracting tapeworms, as the contraction and infestation process demonstrates:
- Tapeworm eggs are attached to flea larvae through locational contact
- A dog comes into contact with the host flea larvae through skin or oral contact
- If skin contact, the dog bites and licks to combat the biting flea, which can cause an ingestion of the tapeworm eggs, which will become tapeworms
- If oral contact, the dog swallows the flea in its entirety, and the digestion process turns the flea into a tapeworm in the intestines
Tapeworms in dogs feed off of partially digested food in the intestines, which robs a dog of much needed nutrients and vitamins (at the least). Therefore, it is extremely important to understand how to spot tapeworms in dogs so that should your canine friend become a host, he or she will not stay that way for long. Dried segments of tapeworms in dogs, approximately ⅛ – 1/16” should be visibly apparent around the anus, or stuck to the fur of a host dog’s hindquarters. They should be hard to the touch, and golden in color.
We recommend contacting your veterinarian immediately should you suspect or witness any symptoms of tapeworms in dogs. There are very effective forms of oral and injectible medications we can prescribe, but arresting and intervening in the early stages of an infestation greatly improves the prognosis for a full recovery.
It is important for dog owners to be on the lookout for symptoms of worms, because by the time your canine friend displays signs of infestation, he or she is usually already well along in the process. Some of the most common symptoms of worms in dogs are:
- Weight loss accompanied by a marked increase or decrease in appetite
- Distended abdomen, or ‘pot-bellied’ appearance
- Diarrhea/chronic soft stools
- Chronic coughing
- Dulling of coat and/or hair loss accompanied by skin irritation/inflammation
- Rubbing or dragging the hindquarters across the ground
- Visible presence of segments of tapeworms in dogs attached to the skin and fur around the anus/hind quarters area
- Visible presence of roundworms in dogs in infected stool, like tiny grains of rice
These symptoms of worms in dogs can also indicate other illnesses, so we recommend contacting your veterinarian immediately if you suspect or witness any of these symptoms of worms in dogs in your canine friend.
Dog worms are generally treatable, so long as they are diagnosed, arrested and treated before the onset of advanced stages of infestation. Your veterinarian can prescribe the proper deworming medication (anthelmintic), along with the appropriate administration protocol, based on the parasite and extent of the infestation.
- For tapeworms in dogs, the medication breaks up tapeworms inside of the intestinal tract, making them too small to see in the feces
- For roundworms in dogs, the medication detaches the worms from the intestinal tract, and excrete them into and with the stool
- For hookworms in dogs, the medication kills the adult hookworms only. We will recommend another treatment in 2-4 weeks to treat the hookworms that were babies during the first treatment
- For whipworms in dogs, we can prescribe medication in 3-4 week intervals, and then every 3-4 months to help prevent a re-infestation
We highly recommend consulting your veterinarian before purchasing or administering any over-the-counter or prescription medication for dog worms. Only your veterinarian can determine the severity of the infestation, and then order the proper number of treatments, as well as any other recommended instructions.
Some types of worms in dogs, like roundworms, are very dangerous to human beings, especially children who play in areas frequented by host animals like raccoons, dogs, and cats. Sandboxes and other dirt and sand covered outdoor play areas routinely serve as makeshift litter boxes for animals infected with dog worms, and many other intestinal parasites. In fact, approximately 10,000 children per year are infected with parasitic worms, and conditions including blindness can occur in severe cases. However, we will now discuss several effective precautionary measures you can take to help keep you and your family free from worms in dogs.
Fortunately, various preventive measures can be taken to help ensure your human, canine, and other assorted family members remain at a lower risk for contracting and spreading dog worms. Some preventive measures to reduce the risk of worms in dogs include:
- Initial treatments given to all puppies at 3 weeks of age
- Treating nursing females alongside their litter, in case worms in dogs were not detected in a previous fecal examination
- Monthly dog worms preventive medication, given year round as prescribed by your veterinarian
- Fecal examinations performed between 2-4 times per year depending on lifestyle habits like hunting, and geographic location
- Prompt detection and intervention in the form of a dewormer for dogs
- Clean up backyard feces periodically, at least 2-3 times per week
- In public parks, playgrounds and dog parks, immediately dispose of feces with sanitary gloves and sealable bags
- Stressing sanitary and hygienic conditions in the home, including limiting internal exposure to contaminated soil, fecal matter and/or host animals
- Stressing hygiene in public, and especially with children, by limiting or avoiding exposure to potentially contaminated objects, locations, animals or people
There are few thrills a family can experience like providing a forever home for a new puppy or dog. However, both newly homed puppies and rehomed adult dogs should be dewormed as follows:
- Puppies: Initial treatment at 3 weeks of age and then as directed by your veterinarian. After the initial treatment(s) are completed, we recommend monthly intestinal parasite prevention. This should be the beginning of an annual dewormer for dogs protocol that your veterinarian can monitor and adjust if necessary.
- Adult Dogs: Once the initial dewormer for dogs has been given as a puppy, dogs should receive monthly preventives year round. Additionally, we recommend performing fecal tests between 2-4 times per year depending on your dog’s lifestyle and several other factors.
- Newly Acquired Dogs: No matter the age or documented history, we recommend a dewormer for dogs immediately upon acquisition, then again as recommended by your veterinarian, with a monthly dewormer for dogs preventive to follow as directed.
Preventing and Treating Fleas and Ticks For Dogs
We employ various safe and effective preventive or flea & tick treatment methods for your dog’s health and comfort.
Fleas and ticks are a source of annoyance and potential health threat in every part of the US. While the seasons will affect the activity of these insects, it is possible to pick up fleas or ticks during most of the year. This is especially true because these insects can thrive in our homes. Dogs and cats which spend time outdoors are at equal risk of picking up fleas. While not as common, fleas and ticks can also enter homes from visiting pets and on people’s clothes.
Your dog is both the home and food source for fleas and ticks. Once a flea gets on your dog, it will remain there until it is killed by a flea product or dies naturally. Just like the adult flea, the adult tick will remain on your dog and eventually produce eggs while feeding from your dog. Ticks however, go through various life stages. Ticks will leave the host and “moult” from one stage to the next. Ticks transmit the most disease to dogs and humans in the nymph and adult stages. If your dog is not on a preventative or adulticide (product to kill fleas and ticks), it is possible for your dog and possibly your home to develop a serious infestation within just a few short weeks.
If not prevented or treated, fleas and ticks can cause a variety of potential health issues for dogs, including:
- Skin irritation and infection
- Rashes and red inflamed skin
- Scabs and scales
- Transmission of disease and illness to you and your dog
- Psychological issues from constant scratching
Fleas and ticks can also result in transmission of disease to humans through petting and sharing a living space with a host dog. This is why it is critical that you are aware of the health dangers that fleas and ticks can pose. It is important that you take measures to reduce the risk of an infestation. WIth the right plan and products, flea and tick infestation is easily preventable. Our veterinarians are here to help you develop a flea and tick prevention program that will best suit your needs and lifestyle.
There are many different flea and tick prevention products on the market. The amount of over-the-counter remedies has grown rapidly in the past 20 years. The influx of unapproved flea treatment for dogs in the early 2000’s, and specifically spot-on treatments, led the Environmental Protection Agency to issue a warning in 2010 about possible toxic reactions to flea medicine for dogs. This resulted from a rash of dog fatalities attributed to the inappropriate use of some products.
As with any medication, there is some risk of adverse reaction to flea and tick treatment. These risks are extremely small. However, should you notice any symptoms or behavior changes, please call us. Our veterinarians would be happy to share with you their recommendations for the best flea and treatments for your dog at your next appointment.
Because dogs spend so much time outdoors, ticks are a common problem and a big concern for owners. If left untreated, fleas and ticks can become a serious nuisance and potential health problem for your dog. Ticks feed on the blood of the host, and use tiny but sharp teeth to embed themselves firmly into a dog’s skin and tissue. Because they penetrate into the bloodstream, ticks can also spread blood-borne illnesses. The larvae and nymph stage of the tick are very small and can easily be missed. The adult tick is about 3mm and is visible to most. The larvae and nymph are about half that size and difficult to identify.
Ticks cause welts and bruises on dogs around the bite location. It is also common to find the tick still attached. There are various methods for treating ticks on dogs, including:
- Spot-On Treatments
- Oral Medications
- Tick Collars
We strongly recommend consulting the veterinarian at your next visit if you suspect a tick infestation. Although there are various remedies to treat ticks on dogs, it is essential to make sure the method you choose is safe and effective.
Fleas are very itchy and annoying and will primarily cause your dog to scratch. If your dog is allergic to flea saliva, the itch can be insatiable. Too much scratching can lead to skin infections, and fleas on dogs can possibly lead to the spread of various diseases. Fleas can be difficult to detect, because they are only about 1-2 millimeters in length, but there are several ways to check for fleas on your dog, including:
- Looking for red, irritated skin on your dog’s neck, belly or hindquarters
- Comb your dog’s hair from back to front for a good look at his or her skin. Flea combs are available at pet stores, but really any fine-toothed comb will do
- The fleas may appear red or brown in color
- If you see a speck that is moving, it’s probably a flea
Although identifying fleas on dogs is something you can do at home, should you suspect a flea infestation, contact us to schedule an appointment immediately. Our veterinary staff are very skilled at determining if your dog has fleas or ticks.
Many years ago, flea collars, sprays, powders and shampoos were the maintainstay of flea control. These products are more toxic and less effective than the majority of products we now recommend. For this reason, we do not recommend any of these products. However, medicated shampoos can be very helpful in treating the secondary skin infections that your dog may have developed due to flea infestation.
Today, the recommended flea and tick treatments for dogs include:
- Oral Tablets: These are a great choice for both prevention and treatment of fleas and ticks, while being safe for both your dog and your family. Oral tablets that treat fleas and ticks can only be obtained from your veterinarian
- Spot-On Flea Treatments: There are many different spot-on flea treatments with varying effectiveness and different spectrums of use. At your next veterinary appointment we will help you choose the most effective spot-on flea and tick treatment for your dog
- Tick Collars: Tick collars are occasionally recommended based on your dog’s lifestyle
Our veterinarians would be happy to discuss specific flea and tick treatments that may be right for your dog at your next appointment.
Since 1991, we have dispensed invaluable guidance about flea and tick prevention and medicines for dogs to dog owners throughout NJ. After all, our state has the perfect mixture of geography, climate and natural landscaping that fleas and ticks find very attractive. Because of this, it is important to take a proactive approach to prevention. Taking preventive measures before a problem arises can save you time and money, while significantly improving your dog’s health and well being.
If you suspect your dog is suffering from the effects of fleas and ticks, we recommend scheduling a veterinary appointment immediately. Our veterinarians and support staff have extensive experience treating fleas and ticks for dogs. We know flea and tick infestations can be frightening and overwhelming, but we assure you they are treatable.
Fleas on Cats
We employ safe and effective flea treatments for your cat’s health and happiness.
Of all the pesky nuisances out there your cat might face, fleas are one of the most troublesome. For cats, fleas pose a variety of potential health issues, including:
- Skin irritation
- Rashes & Skin Infections
- Transmission of disease and illness
Another danger of fleas for cats is infestation of the home and possible transmission of disease to humans through sharing a living space. Many people believe that indoor cats are somehow immune to fleas, but this is not true. Fleas can enter homes on visiting pets and people’s clothes. Fleas will seek out your cat to feed and live. Once a flea is on your cat, it stays and will produce 30-50 eggs within 24 hours. These eggs are the consistency of sand and will fall off the cat, land in the carpet or bedding and become an adult flea in 14 to 365 days depending upon the environmental conditions. It is easy to understand how the house can become quickly infested with fleas.
This is why flea prevention is important for every cat. Prevention helps reduce the risk of exposure to both your cat and your home.
At Harlingen Veterinary Clinic when it comes to fleas, our primary focus is on prevention. Prevention is important because it stops a serious problem before it starts. If you are starting to notice signs and symptoms of fleas, that indicates that you are already dealing with an infestation. It is best to not reach that stage. With good education, and the right prevention products, you can easily avoid a flea infestation.
A proactive approach to flea prevention starts with a discussion about various factors that play a role in your pet’s potential exposure to fleas. For example, if your cats are indoor/outdoor is a factor, as well as whether they are exposed to other animals that go outside (including pets of friends or family that may come over for a visit).
It is important to be aware that there are numerous products on the market that our veterinarians would strongly suggest you avoid. Every year, our veterinarians review all available flea products to ensure that our recommendations are as up to date as possible. Our considerations include safety, effectiveness, and cost. Based on these factors we will work with you to customize a parasite prevention plan for your pets and family.
- Visible fleas
- Red or irritated skin
- Scabs and/or flakes
- Excessive grooming
There are many different cat flea treatment products on the market. This includes a plethora of remedies involving substances that have no medical validity where fleas for cats are concerned. Our veterinarians would strongly recommend against numerous over the counter flea treatments. Some common cat flea treatment methods include:
- Oral Tablets: These are a great choice for both prevention and treatment of fleas, while being safe for both your cat and your family. Oral tablets that treat fleas can only be obtained from your veterinarian.
- Spot-On Flea Treatments: There are many different spot-on flea treatments with varying effectiveness and different spectrums of use. At your next veterinary appointment, we will help you choose the most effective spot-on flea treatment for your cat.
- Cat Flea Collars, Powders and Sprays: We do not recommend the use of flea collars, powders or sprays. While these products were the mainstay of flea control in past years, they are more toxic and less effect than the products we currently recommend.
We choose the products based upon safety and efficacy. However, as with any new medication or product there is a possibility of adverse reaction. If you notice any discomfort or behavioral changes after administering or applying, please call us at: 908-332-5057. It is essential to discuss cat flea treatment options with your veterinarian, in order to ensure the method you choose will be safe and effective for your feline friend.
Some dog products are lethal to cats so please make sure you are using a product specifically made for cats.
There are many different remedies and methods out there for treating fleas on cats, and there are also various over-the-counter cat flea medicine options on the market today. The rapid influx of so many untested cat flea medicine brands in the early 2000’s, and specifically spot-on treatments, led the Environmental Protection Agency to issue a warning in 2010 about possible toxic reactions to cat flea medicine. This resulted from an increase in cat fatalities attributed to the inappropriate use of some products.