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Preventing Pesky Parasites!

Is there anything worse than a persistent itch, which grows more and more unpleasant as you scratch away at it?

Imagine being a dog or cat – every inch of you is covered in thick fur, it’s hot outside, it’s hot inside and oh … you’ve got fleas, too. Sucking away at your blood, leaving itchy sore-spots behind them and in some cases, causing severe allergic reactions.

Doesn’t sound pleasant, does it?

In order to save our pets from fleas, worms and ticks (all of which are out in particular abundance at this time of year), we’ve laid out some helpful guidelines.

Fleas

What are they and what do they do?

Fleas are known as ectoparasites because they live on a pet’s (or human’s) skin. They are tiny, wingless creatures that breed very quickly – a female flea can lay up to 50 eggs a day! One common misconception about fleas is that they can only survive whilst latched onto an animal. The cold, hard truth, however, is that when a flea lays her eggs, the majority fall off the pet and survive (during their larvae and pupae stage) in our houses – you have modern-day cosy carpets and central heating to thank for that. Once they reach adulthood, fleas quickly set about finding blood to feed on and the cycle continues.

How do I protect my pet?

You need to use a product that kills fleas at every stage of their cycle. With any flea infestation, it’s estimated that only 5% of the population live on the animal while the remaining 95% prance about the rest of your home. Most vet-approved parasite prevention treatments will ensure that a flea dies when it lands on a pet’s skin or takes a meal, it may also render them infertile – stopping the cycle before it begins.

It’s precisely because fleas breed so quickly that regular prevention is of paramount importance. If your pet does get fleas, you’ll need to treat your home, too. This helps break the flea life cycle.

You can also lower the chances of your pet catching fleas by keeping their bedding clean (wash regularly at 60 degrees) and regularly hoovering any area of the house in which your pet spends a lot of time. We also recommend that you mow the lawn.

Worms

What are they and what do they do?

Worms, horrifying as it is to imagine, live inside an animal’s body. Our pets usually contract worms through their mouth, from eating or licking something infected with worm eggs. This could be food, stool or soil.

The following affect dogs and cats most often:

  • Roundworms – the most common, they look like cooked spaghetti
  • Hookworms – a type of roundworm, they latch onto intestines and live on blood
  • Whipworms – they also live on blood, cannot be seen by the naked eye – again, a type of roundworm
  • Tapeworms – also common, they look like a string of rice-grains
  • Lungworms – these are becoming more widespread in the UK and attack the lungs
  • Heartworms – mainly affect, and live in, the heart (rare in this country)

Unlike fleas, whose symptoms will be obvious enough in most pets, it can be a little harder to tell if your dog or cat has worms. That said, weight loss, a change in appetite, anal discomfort and general sickness can be good indicators.

How do I protect my pet?

Keep them away from bins, litter and similar dirty areas. Preventing hunting, the eating of rodents or other deceased animals, will also help. The main thing is to keep your pet up to date with their worm treatments – most products only kill the worms that are there and do nothing to prevent future worms, this means it’s important to worm your pet regularly so a problem cannot grow too severe. We suggest worming at least four times a year.

Ticks

What are they and what do they do?

Ticks are found most often in grassy areas. They latch onto their hosts and, like fleas, feed on their blood. Though initially they can be difficult to see, a tick can swell up to the size of a pea once it’s had a large blood meal.

How do I protect my pet?

Ticks thrive in the warmer months so be on the lookout and check your pet’s fur regularly. If you find one, remove it as soon as you can. We recommend a specialist tick remover or tick hook; grab the tick by the head as firmly as possible – without nipping your pet’s skin – and remove it in a swift, rotating motion. Be wary of tweezers as they often don’t remove the tick in full. If you’re struggling or don’t feel comfortable, visit the vet right away. Avoid older fashioned treatments such as heat, this can actually increase the risk of a tick spreading disease.

Ticks can also spread diseases; the most common is Lyme disease. If you find that your pet is afflicted with a tick, contact your vet for advice.

 

Try not to worry too much! So long as you administer all relevant treatments with the correct frequency, your pets will be able to enjoy their summer itch-free and illness-free!

If anything does go wrong, or your pet seems unwell in any way … as always … contact your vet right away. You can never be too careful!

Contact us today to book a flea and tick check.

Practice information

Summerhill Vets

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Dr Doolittle’s Aberdare

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Jones The Vet

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