Heartworm, Flea & Tick Parasite Control - Petaluma Veterinary Hospital

Parasites are arguably one of the most frustrating things that can affect our pets. Whilst not all are exactly dangerous, they can have very unpleasant symptoms that can make life pretty unenjoyable for your pet. Meanwhile, there are some that are much more serious, with a few potentially having fatal consequences for your furry friend. The good news is that it is possible to prevent your pet from ever having to suffer from a parasite problem thanks to the wide range of different preventative medications and treatments available.

Our dedicated and experienced veterinary team understands just how important it is to keep your pet properly protected against parasites at all times and offer a comprehensive parasite control service right here at our veterinary hospital in Petaluma, CA. In the meantime, here is what you need to know about parasites and the importance of protecting your pet.

parasite control

Types of Parasite that can Affect your Pet and their Symptoms

Parasites come in a variety of forms, some of which live inside your pet and some that live on the outside of their body. However, they all have one thing in common. They all thrive by deriving their nutrients from your pet’s body at the expense of their health.


Fleas are one of the most common types of external parasite and they are prevalent in wild animals as well as pets. Fleas are tiny, wingless creatures that travel between hosts by jumping. They consume blood, and whilst a few fleas may not cause major blood loss, they can reproduce extremely quickly, meaning that it is possible for a pet to develop large populations of fleas if they aren’t treated quickly. This can lead to your pet developing anemia. Flea saliva contains toxins that are highly irritating, with many pets actually experiencing an allergic reaction to flea bites. This causes intense, unstoppable itching for which fleas are well known. Other symptoms of fleas include red patches on the skin, hair loss and skin infections which occur from scratching. If your pet becomes anemic, they may seem lethargic and have pale gums.


Ticks are another external parasite that drops onto your pet from trees, plants, and bushes. Ticks are well known for carrying a range of diseases including Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, and rocky mountain spotted fever. All of these can have serious consequences for the health of your pet. Tick-borne diseases don’t present with any immediate symptoms, and in fact, it can take a number of weeks or months to realize that your pet has been affected. Ticks are visible to the naked eye though, and so checking your pet when you groom them is recommended as this gives you the best opportunity to spot and remove ticks before they harm your pet.


There are numerous types of worms that can affect our pets. Most live in the digestive system where they breed and multiply, causing symptoms including coughing, vomiting/diarrhea, low appetite and energy, and weight loss. These worms are spread through direct contact with worm eggs, such as those that can be passed out in an infected animal’s stools. There is another type of worm, called heartworm. Heartworm larvae are transmitted by mosquitos who travel between animals. Unlike other worms, heartworms live in the blood vessels of the heart and lungs of their host where they grow and reproduce. They eventually prevent healthy blood flow, leading to organ damage and death. The symptoms of heartworms are very easily overlooked and can take a long time to appear. By the time they do, significant damage will have already been done to your pet’s health. Symptoms include a mild, persistent cough, reluctance to exercise, fatigue and decreased appetite.

Other parasites that could potentially affect your pet include:

  • Coccidia

  • Ear mites

  • Giardia

  • Mange mites

Since some types of parasites present a risk to humans since they can either directly or indirectly transmit illnesses to us, proper preventative care is strongly recommended.

Treatment and Prevention for Parasites

In most instances, parasites themselves can be effectively treated using a series of topical ointments or medications. Some are harder to get rid of than others, with fleas being notoriously difficult to eradicate due to their microscopic size and short reproductive cycle. In addition to the treatment you give your pet, you will also need to treat your home with products and by maintaining a rigorous cleaning routine.

When it comes to heartworms, treatment is possible. However, it is expensive, prolonged and can be dangerous for your pet. Heartworm treatment is only possible for dogs. If you have a cat that becomes infected, our veterinary team will only be able to help manage the symptoms of the condition and support your feline so that it is possible they will outlive the worms.

Fortunately, there is a huge range of different preventatives available. These include:

  • Topical treatments such as shampoos, ointments, and creams.

  • Collars.

  • Oral medications.

  • Injections (these protect against heartworms)

Some preventatives will offer protection against more than one type of parasite. For example, some products provide protection against both fleas and ticks in just one solution. Most also need to be given on a regular basis and it is crucial that you take note of this and ensure that this schedule is strictly adhered to. Even being a few days later with preventative medication could leave your pet vulnerable to being affected.

If you’d like more information about heartworm, flea, and other parasite control, please get in touch with Petaluma Veterinary Hospital in Petaluma, CA.