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Cat and Dog Parasites

Pet Parasites: Fleas, worms, and ticks

What are fleas?

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. fleas 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 anaemia 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 which should also be treated. These larvae then develop into adults that will jump onto your pet where they will bite, feed and so the cycle continues.

How do you know if your pet has fleas?

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. There are many products available to prevent or treat fleas but some are better than others! Prescription Only Products are always the safest and most effective, our vets can prescribe effective treatments that when used regularly, will prevent flea infestation.

What are ticks?

Ticks are hard bodied parasites that measure 2.4mm-3.6mm (up to 11mm fully engorged) that feed on our pet’s blood. They are red/brown in colour and turn grey once engorged. They transmit diseases such as Lyme Disease, Babesiosis and tick borne fever. To learn more about ticks, see what Chris Packham has to say:

What to do if you find a tick?

It is important to dispose of any ticks you find hygienically and be careful not to release the live tick back into the environment, as it could re-attach itself to your pet or your family!

  • The ideal device for tick removal is a specially designed hook with a narrow slot, which needs to be slid with care under the tick at skin level so as to grip the tick. You can purchase these form the practice.
  • Secure the hook in place around the mouthparts of the tick, ensuring that it is not entangled in the hair. The hook is then rotated around its axis several times until the attachment is freed. The loose tick will then be easily detached and removed without putting either the tick or skin under tension
  • When attempting to remove a tick, avoid handling the parasite directly without gloves – remember ticks carry unpleasant infections!

How do I prevent ticks?

As always prevention is better than cure so please ask a member of staff about the most up to date tick prevention treatments available.

What are roundworms (dogs and cats)?

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?

The majority of puppies are born with roundworms. 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, our vets can prescribe a tablet or spot-on treatment.

What are Tapeworms (dogs and cats)?

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. For the best advice on the type of de-worming preparation most suitable for your pet speak to a member of our team.

What is lungworm?

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. The current risk in our area is considered to be low.

How do I know if my pet has 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. Our vets can prescribe spot-on or tablet treatment. By treating regularly, you can prevent your dog from getting an established lungworm infection.