Kingstonist’s Wizard of Paws: Parasites

Do you see what I see? Yep, that is an immature heartworm (a microfilaria) from a dog. Heartworm disease is real and can be fatal. Fortunately, we don't see high numbers of cases around here but that can change as it warms up. Also, the more dogs on prevention means less cases we'll likely see so talk to your vet about how to keep your pet safe. ?

Posted by Dr. Ryan Llera on Wednesday, April 24, 2019

An immature heartworm (a microfilaria) from a dog. Video by Dr. Ryan Llera.


Guess who’s back? Back again. Worms are back. Tell a friend.

Yes, it’s that time of year where everything is starting to look nice and clean… except for muddy paw prints from your dog’s feet. It’s also springtime, meaning parasites make their reappearance. Well, we can see parasites throughout the year, but they tend to be quieter in the winter.

The main ones are the external parasites, you know what I mean – fleas and ticks! The truth is they never left, but they are often the most concerning parasites that we should be worried about. Fleas can often lead to some nasty skin problems, but are mainly very irritating. Ticks, on the other hand, seem to get worse every year. While Lyme disease is often in the news, there are other diseases that ticks can spread, and they’re also like vampires and suck blood. Ticks can be anywhere – tall grasses, short grass, brush, hedges – there is no escaping them.

For the most part, internal parasites you cannot see, but they have the potential to cause more harm than many people would expect. You may only see intestinal worms once your cat or dog have vomited them up or pass them in their stool, but where you may only see one, many more may still be inside. Aside from gastrointestinal problems, some such as hookworms or whipworms can also cause severe bleeding or inflammation in the intestines. Also: There’s a common misconception that worms cause your pet to have an itchy bum – not true.

Prevention is better than treatment (though some treatments can be done easily). I must strongly caution you against randomly picking up over the counter meds, or trying ‘natural’ remedies. For a large part, they aren’t as effective as they may claim to be, in that they won’t always treat the specific type of worms in question. Additionally, some products may not be well labeled and could prove to be unsafe. At the minimum, talk with your veterinarian. Ask them about any products before using them to get some sound advice for your pet’s health. If you want proven, safe, and effective treatment, they can also review options that they would recommend. Flea, tick, and worm preventatives are so much easier these days than they were when I was a kid, so make it a part of your pet’s regular health care routine.


Dr. Ryan Llera is a small animal veterinarian at the Kingston Veterinary Clinic. Though originally from Florida, he married a Canadian (who is also a vet!) and they share their home with two cats, two dogs, two horses, and a rabbit. Dr. Llera also contributes writing to various other animal and veterinary related blogs. You can find more of his writing at, or see what else he is up to on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Disclaimer: All columns are personally written and my opinion, and may not necessarily reflect those of current or former employers.


If there’s something you’ve often wondered or questions you have about regarding pets, let us know by email at [email protected].

*Please note that specific medical questions about your pet cannot be addressed and you should speak with your personal veterinarian.


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