FLEAS TICKS AND WORMS
Adult fleas are tiny dark brown, wingless insects which can jump up to 165 times their own length and are easily spread by contact from one animal to another.
In order to survive and breed, fleas need to feed on the blood of our pets. They cling onto fur with their claws and bite the skin with a needle-like mouth. For young puppies and kittens, this blood loss can cause anemia which is potentially life-threatening. In adult dogs and cats (and humans!) the main problem is the flea bite, which leads to irritation and skin allergy problems.
A single flea can lay up to 50 eggs a day and these fall into the environment such as your pet’s bedding or the carpet. These larvae then develop into adults that will jump onto your pet where they will bite, feed and so the cycle continues.
How to stop the itch
The best way to check for fleas is to check for “flea dirt” which are brown/black specks seen in your pet’s coat (‘flea dirt’ is really dried specks of blood extracted by the flea). Comb through your pet’s coat onto a wet piece of kitchen roll or paper. If the specks turn red/brown, then you know your pet has fleas. Don’t wait for your pet to itch or scratch before thinking about flea treatment. Give your dog treatment every 6 months.
Ticks attach themselves to our pets in order to feed, causing irritation and discomfort. They have highly developed mouths which allow them to pierce a hole through the skin and feed on blood.
It is important to check your pet regularly for ticks. Aside from causing discomfort while they are attached, ticks can also transmit diseases such as Lyme disease and Babesia canis. If your pet does have a tick, do not remove it with tweezers as it’s very easy to leave the head behind!
Preventative treatments are available to stop ticks causing your pet to become irritated.
Lungworm is a parasite that can cause serious health problems in dogs and can even be fatal if left untreated. As an adult worm, it lives in the heart and blood vessels that supply the lungs.
Dogs catch lungworm through eating slugs and snails which carry the larvae of the parasite and it can even be spread through the slug or snail slime. While most dogs do not routinely eat slugs and snails for pleasure, they may do so by accident e.g. when drinking from a puddle, licking grass or generally just having a sniff around. On the other hand, some dogs do enjoy munching on these garden pests and although not every snail or slug carries the parasite, if your pet regularly eats snails/slugs then there is a risk of them picking up lungworm at some point.
Signs of Lungworm
Signs can be varied, but can include; coughing, tiring easily, weight loss, poor appetite, vomiting, diarrhoea, excessive bleeding from minor wounds, seizures and even death.
What can I do to protect my dog from lungworm?
Once diagnosed and treated, most dogs can make a full recovery but the key to successful treatment is taking action early. The best way to avoid your pet getting lungworm in the first place is to speak with your vet about preventative solutions.
Roundworms are large white worms, with cylindrical bodies.
The adult roundworm lives in the small intestine and feeds on the gut contents. Dogs and cats of any age can get roundworms but they are most likely to have roundworms when they are very young. Worms are often passed from a mother to her puppies or kittens before birth or shortly after, through her milk. They can also be spread between animals by ingestion of worm eggs from the faeces of an infected animal or by ingesting an intermediate host – such as rodents or birds.
Does my pet have roundworm?
There are often no visible signs of roundworm, however, a pot belly, poor growth, diarrhoea or poor coat could be indicators.
Regular worming is the best way to protect your pet against roundworm, through a tablet or spot-on treatment.
Tapeworms look like long, flat ribbons and can
be up to half a metre in length. Adult tapeworms
live in the small intestine and once mature release
segments containing eggs.
Dogs and cats contract tapeworm by ingesting an infected intermediate host. Fleas are one of the intermediate hosts for the most common tapeworm of dogs and cats, so even indoor cats could become infected by ingesting fleas.
Does my pet have tapeworm?
Tapeworm infections are usually diagnosed by finding segments (that may look like grains of rice or seeds) on the rear end of your pet or in your pet’s faeces. It is common however for pets not to show any outward signs.
Tapeworm segments in your pet’s faeces can cause irritation resulting in them licking their back end excessively and they may ‘scoot’ across the ground. Signs such as vomiting or diarrhoea can also occur. A variety of products are available to treat and prevent tapeworm. Some animals may need tapeworm treatment more often if they frequently hunt or scavenge.
There are several types of mites that can live in your pet’s ear, but the most common are Otodectes cynotis - tiny, eight-legged parasites that feed on the wax and oils within the ear canal. They are highly contagious and constant re-infestation can be a problem. Ear mites do not burrow into the skin but live on the surface of the outer ear canal causing irritation.
Does my pet have ear mites?
Ear mites are commonly seen at a young age in puppies and kittens. Your pet may carry ear mites without showing any signs, however, excessive scratching and rubbing of ears, head shaking, a black or brown waxy secretion with a strong smell are all indicators that something might be wrong. Treatment for ear mites is case dependent. There are medications that our vets will prescribe that can be applied directly in the ear, or parasite medications that are applied to the skin. Certain types of bacterial infections can mimic the signs of ear mites so it’s best to get your pet checked by the vet if you suspect something is wrong.
Lice are small wingless insects that spend their entire lives on their host. Unlike fleas and ticks, lice do not travel or exist in the environment and are caught through direct contact with a louse infested animal. Sharing grooming tools can also transport lice from one pet to another.
Does my pet have lice?
The most common sign of a louse infection is a scruffy, dry coat. Lice lay eggs (termed nits) on the hair shafts. The lice themselves may be difficult to find, however, nits can be seen with the naked eye. Itching and hair loss is common and in severe infestations, anaemia may occur. If you suspect your pet has lice don’t worry - treatment is available!
Types of treatment
There are lots of different treatment options for you to consider, and while certain ones will work for some pets, you need to find something that’s right for you and your own pet to keep them in tip-top shape.
These topical treatments are popular because they’re usually easy to apply and affordable, and they come in many varieties.
- Spot on treatments
These treatments are great for preventing and treating fleas and ticks, as they’re long-lasting and will kill them off at any stage of their life. Plus, spot on treatments - which sometimes can help prevent worms too - only take a moment to apply to your pet, so it’s really easy to keep on top of your routine.
Pills can be used for the treatment of fleas, ticks and most commonly worms, which they help to quickly flush out of your pet’s system. As it’s very common for pets to struggle with taking a tablet, you might need to hide it in some food or a treat to help the medicine go down. If you’re going to give your pet any tablet, you’ll usually need to weigh them to establish the right dosage.
Collars can’t help to protect your pet from worms and are not as effective as topical or oral treatments. They come in all different styles and can last up to eight months, plus they can be great if your pet really doesn’t like bath time.
As with most problems that you can encounter with your pet, it’s always best to try and prevent them rather than react once it’s too late, so here we look at some of the most popular pets and what you can do keep them clear of fleas, ticks and worms.
Your dog’s most likely to pick up these unwanted little creatures when you’re out walking, particularly in areas with long grass. Treatments can come in many forms, from tablets to spot on treatments and even shampoos, so there are plenty of options for finding the best options for your pet. You should treat your dog for fleas every month and worms every 2-3 months depending on the product used, although it’s a bit more often for puppies while their immune system’s still developing. And with ticks, you can help to keep your pet safe in your garden by getting rid of any fallen leaves and keeping any bushes and hedges trimmed.
Like dogs, your cat can easily pick up fleas, ticks and worms and, as you can’t see what your pet gets up to if they’re allowed to roam outside, this means it’s really important that you stay on top of treating them. Use a spot on flea treatment, checking to see how often you should use it, and a worming treatment every 2-3 months, to keep your pet in great shape for their outdoor adventures.