We are all well aware of fleas, ticks and worms and the importance of regularly treating your fur babies for these pesky pet parasites.
Excessive worm burdens or flea infestations can have a detrimental effect on the health of your pet; affecting their digestive systems, coat condition, and immune systems, and in extreme cases even cause anaemia; particularly in young animals.
Types Of Parasites Pets Can Pick Up
The two types of parasites we treat for are classed as ‘endoparasites’ and ‘ectoparasites’.
- Ectoparasites are typically in the skin or on the coat of your pet, with the most common being seen as fleas, ticks, mites and lice.
- Endoparasites typically refer to parasites that live inside your pet. The most common include roundworms, tapeworms and Protozoa. These can be found in the gut, lungs, heart or blood vessels.
The most common parasite seen by our vets and nurses. Many different species of fleas exist (over 2000!!!) but by far the most common is the cat flea, or ‘Ctenocephalides felis’ to be precise! However don’t be fooled into thinking they only call cats their home, they are just as happy at home on dogs and other mammals too.
An adult flea can breed and lay thousands of eggs in its lifetime, not only on your pet but also on the carpet of your home and on your bedding! These eggs hatch to become larvae, which then develop into pupae; these can then lie dormant for many months in the environment. Once developed the adult flea appears and the cycle starts again. The whole process of this is approximately 2 weeks!
Only 5% of a flea infestation is made up of adult biting fleas; those which will be found on your pet. The remaining 95% will live in the environment. This is a scary thought and the reason why we always say you have to treat your house too!
There are many species of worms, however, the most commonly seen in our practice by far are roundworms and tapeworms. Hookworms, whipworms and lungworms are some other known but lesser common ones.
- Roundworms typically are white and thin, resembling pieces of spaghetti. These are generally the worm burdens found in both puppies and kittens.
- Tapeworms can be extremely long when in the gut, however, these shed into tiny white segments which resemble grains of rice. These are the kind most often spotted by owners as they stick to the pet’s hair around their rear ends.
Both dogs and cats can catch worms through ingesting the worms themselves, or their eggs. For instance, if your pet cat is an avid hunter then it could ingest a burden from any prey caught and eaten. If your dog eats other animals faeces then this can be another admission route. Interactive grooming can also cause ingestion if the other animal carries a burden.
It is extremely important to clean up any faeces passed by your pet, whether this be on a walk or in your own garden. Whether they have any worm concerns or not! Biodegradable poo bags are readily available and should be used wherever possible, and these should be disposed of correctly; there are plenty of bins provided for by the local councils on most roads and in parks!
This is caused by a single-celled parasite called ‘Toxoplasma gondii’. A parasite found throughout the world which can cause flu-like symptoms in humans. It can be transmitted via the faeces of an infected cat and it can be harmful to unborn babies, hence the advice that cat owners take precautions when pregnant and either get someone else to clean litter trays where possible, or wear gloves as a precaution.
This advice must be also taken when gardening, even if you don’t own a cat yourself, due to cats often using flower beds as their outdoor tray!! Significant harm can happen to the foetus in some instances, or even miscarriage can occur, therefore this advice must be followed. If you have any concerns whatsoever about this then check out the NHS website for more information.
Ticks are parasitic arachnids, which are external parasites, that live on the blood of mammals. They attach to their hosts via the use of their head parts.
Once a full feeding session has been undertaken they usually fall off, however, they can be easily removed manually, so long as the correct technique is used to fully remove the head parts; failure to do this properly can result in irritation or infection. There are also many flea preparations which also include tick control so this is the safer option.
Ticks can be found in environments such as moorland, grassland, woodland and even parks and gardens. They perch at the top of grass stems waiting for a host to walk by so they can attach themselves to it for feeding. Hosts commonly seen by us include cats, dogs and hedgehogs.
Humans are also at risk. Walking through long grass is often the easiest way to pick them up. Livestock including sheep, goats and deer are well-known tick carriers.
Ticks can transmit many other serious diseases which can be passed to other animals and also humans. Good quality tick treatment is available through the practice, so it is highly recommended if you live in any of the environments mentioned above, or you are planning on visiting any of the locations for your holidays.
This is a tick-born disease humans can acquire if bitten by a tick carrying the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi.
In dogs, Lyme disease symptoms can be vague but in severe cases can include a high temperature, painful joints and lethargy.
In humans, a circular or oval shape rash can occur around the bitten area; somewhat resembling a bullseye, like on a dartboard. This will usually appear within the first month of the bite but can take upwards of 3 months therefore if you are bitten keep a close eye on the area. Flu-like symptoms can occur so monitor your health too. Again, the NHS have details here on Lyme disease but if in any doubt, speak to your GP surgery.
Pet Parasite Control
There are many different formulas, preparations and delivery methods of parasite control available, all of which need to be applied or administered at different time intervals. This is because the products do not have a long-term residual effect, therefore they need to be given regularly to be effective.
We always recommend you purchase your parasite control from a veterinary practice, where licensed products (those available only to those who hold dispensing licences) can be properly prescribed for you. Plus you can always be sure you are getting professional advice and opinions on the correct products for you and your pet.
Parasite Treatment For Pets At Valley Vetcare
Parasite control can vary depending on your pet’s lifestyle, age, activities and so on, therefore we advise a consultation with one of our qualified veterinary nurses where these points can be discussed and a plan can be put in place which suits you both. Also, we offer the administration or application of any parasite control treatment for anyone who has a pet tricky to treat!
Our Pet Healthcare Plans, where the costs are spread over a monthly direct debit scheme to allow for ease of payment, include all of your annual parasite control treatments, along with vaccinations, free health checks and other benefits, so be sure to check them out.
Parasite Treatment When Taking Pets Abroad
Finally, there are other parasites, and diseases which vaccinations are required for, which need to be considered if you are travelling overseas to visit, or move, to other countries. Our veterinary surgeons can provide advice and travel services such as export certificates if you have plans for this.
This can be a lengthy process depending on where you are travelling to, so please ensure you plan ahead and call the practice as soon as you can for details. You should also check out the UK Government’s advice about taking a pet abroad.
Get In Touch
Thanks for reading, I hope this guide to pet parasites was helpful – don’t forget if you have any questions at all, just contact us.