Parasite. par-a-site [par-uh-sahyt]. – noun. An organism that lives off or in another organism, obtaining nourishment and protection while offering no benefit in return.
Parasites exist in a huge variety of forms. They can live on the surface of their host (ectoparasites) or within the host (endoparasites). All parasites cause varying degrees of damage and disease to the host. The control of parasites is vital to maintain the health of your pet.
Fleas are the most common parasite to be found on dogs and cats, most are likely to pick them up at some stage in their life.
Only the adult flea lives on your pet, a reddish-brown insect can be seen running through their fur. Fleas do have preferred hosts, but casual feeding is common on any warm-blooded animal, including humans! Cat fleas are so numerous that they are the most common flea to be found on dogs. Fleas feed on your pet’s blood and will then go on to lay eggs, hundreds at a time! The eggs will drop off into the enviroment, which includes your carpets. Immature larvae hatch from the eggs and develop into adult fleas. In ideal conditions , such as warm summer months or centrally heated homes, this can take as little as three weeks. The young adults will then jump back on to your pet and the cycle continues.
WHAT PROBLEMS DO FLEA CAUSE?
Fleas feed on your pet’s blood. Most pets will experience some skin irritation from flea bites. However, if your pet is allergic to flea bites they will experience a severe reaction, causing intense itching, inflammed and possibly infected skin and hair loss.
Fleas are also an intermediate host for some tapeworms. Grooming results in fleas being accidentally swallowed and your pet can become infected with tapeworms.
WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO CONTROL FLEAS?
Not all flea control product are equally effective. A good flea control product needs to be easy to apply and kill fleas quickly. Many products advise monthly application but will not last for the full month. This allows a window of opportunity for the fleas to build up again. We have a range of veterinary licensed flea control products, all of which are easy to apply and proven to be effective.
You will need to treat all pets in your household, not just those where flea have been seen or those that have skin problems.
With heavy infestation large numbers of fleas can be found in the environment. If this is the case you may experience flea bites yourself, particularly on the lower legs. A good carpet spray will help tackle the environmental problem.
The Royal Veterinary College have produced fact sheets for further information:
All about fleas – DOGS
All about fleas – CATS
Monthly flea treatments are included in our Pet Health Plan.
Should you require advice on flea control please contact the surgery.
All dogs and cats are affected by worms at some stage in their life, and many will be re-infected without regular worming treatments. The two main types of worms encountered by dogs and cats in the UK are roundworms (like string) and tapeworms (flat and ribbon like).
Both types of worms live in the intestines, where they help themselves to your pets food and can damage the gut causing loss of blood. This can result in diarrhoea, vomiting, anaemia, poor coat and weight loss. In puppies and kittens worms can be a serious problem affecting growth and sometimes resulting in death.
Roundworms growing in the intestines lay eggs which pass out in the faeces and take up to 4 weeks to become infective. The eggs are microscopic and can survive in soil for years. These eggs are passed to another dog/cat either by being eaten directly or indirectly when eaten by other animals, such as rodents, which are then eaten by the dog/cat. Immature worms can be transferred in the mothers milk to both puppies and kittens, leading to roundworm infections in the very young. In dogs the immature worms can also cross the placenta and so puppies can be born already infected! For this reason regular worming of puppies and kittens is recommended from 2 weeks of age and repeated every 2 to 4 weeks, depending on the product used, until 12 weeks of age.
The roundworms of dogs (Toxocara canis) and cats (Toxocara cati) present a rare, although potential serious, threat to human health. Children playing in an environment contaminated with infective egg can pick up the tiny microscopic eggs on their hands and then accidently ingest them. Once ingested the eggs hatch in the stomach and migrate in to tissues in an attempt to develop. Often this goes unnoticed and no symptoms or illness occurs. However, it can lead to problems ranging from mild flu like symptoms to impaired vision or blindness. There is increasing evidence that the dog roundworm may also be implicated in epilepsy, reduced cognitive function / learning difficulties, asthma and other allergies. Read more
There are approximately 120 cases of toxocariasis per year in humans. But given the vague, non-specific symptoms and the fact that it is not a notifiable disease, toxocariasis is probably under reported and the figure could be much higher.
For this reason you should encourage children to wash their hands after playing in areas which may have been used as a toilet by dogs and cats, and especially before eating. Cleaning up after you dog will help reduce environmental contamination. However this is not practical with cats and many will bury their faeces. For this reason we recommend that children’s sandpits are covered to prevent cats having access and also that any food that may have been in contact with soil, such as fruit and vegetables, are washed. If you have children it is especially important to make sure you administer regular worming treatments to your dog or cat.
Tapeworms are made up of segments, each filled with eggs. These segments break off and are passed in the faeces. They are about the size of a grain of rice and can sometimes be seen wriggling in the fur near to the anus. In the case of the most common type of tapeworm these segments are eaten by fleas, which then move between animals. When grooming the fleas, containing the eggs, are accidentally swallowed. Flea control obviously plays an important role in the control of these tapeworms.
With other tapeworms the eggs are passed in faeces and can be found in soil or on vegetation. These eggs can then eaten by animals such as mice and rabbits. Your pet then becomes infected if they eat these animals. Discouraging hunting can help reduce the risk
Lungworm is caused by a parasitic worm, Angiostrongylus vasorumas. The adult worm infects dogs but the young immature larval stages are carried and spread by slugs and snails. If a dog eats an infected slug or snail they are at risk of infection. The larvae can even survive in the slime trails, so licking is another way to get infected. Foxes can also be infected with this parasite and it is thought to be one of the reasons why it is slowly spreading around the country. Please watch the video at the end of this blog for more information on Lungworm.
Symptoms of Lungworm include lethargy, cough, heart failure and blood clotting disorders. This bleeding can be life-threatening risk to an affected pet.
In the last ten years or so the disease has become much more common throughout the UK and it is now considered that all dogs in the UK are potentially at risk. The number of cases in the north west currently remains low compared to the south of the UK, but numbers are likely to increase with time.
This has been a slowly emerging disease in the UK. We are NOT experiencing an epidemic but we feel it is time to raise awareness locally. Our advice is not to panic but to speak to one of our vets or nurses next time you visit the practice.
For more information on Lungworm please click the link – https://www.stanleyhousevets.com/2020/03/01/lungowrm-is-on-the-rise/
HOW FREQUENTLY SHOULD I WORM?
For adult dogs and cats treating against round and tapeworm every 3 months is the recommended best practice. Not all worming products are equally as good, and some will not treat all types of worms. We recommend Drontal® tablets. Drontal® gives you the peace of mind that you are worming with a veterinary licensed product that is proven to be effect against round and tapeworms.
WHAT CAN I DO IF I CAN’T GIVE MY CAT WORMING PILLS?
Many cats won’t swallow a tablet without putting up a fight. There is now a new simple spot-on product our vets can prescribe that is effective against both round and tapeworms.
Worming treatments are covered in our Health Care Plan