Fleas are ectoparasites, they live on surface of your pets skin. Here they also feed and lay eggs (a female flea can lay up to 50 eggs per day) which are shed into the environment. Your pet can pick up fleas from almost anywhere in the environment, not just from other animals. Flea larvae will pupate and stay in the environment for up to a year until they are stimulated to hatch by vibrations caused by movement or exposure to carbon dioxide that is exhaled by animals or humans.
It can be hard to spot fleas on your pet as they stay close to the skin surface, away from light. The most common places to see fleas are under the jaw/neck area and towards the back end where your pet cannot reach to gnaw or scratch. It is often easier to find flea dirt (flea faeces). This looks like tiny black or brown specks, if you comb them out and place them on wet tissue or paper, a red or brown ring will appear around the specks. Flea dirt can be seen on your pet or in their bedding.
Your pet may also begin scratching themselves or gnawing at their skin. This is due to the fleas physically biting the skin, which is uncomfortable and also the fleas’ saliva acting as an irritant. If fleas are on your pet or in your home, you may also suffer from flea bites which appear as itchy red lumps on the skin.
It is paramount to keep fleas under control at all times as any animal is susceptible at any time of the year. A flea infestation is not only uncomfortable for your pet, but it can also lead to other health issues such as flea allergic dermatitis, tapeworm infestation and anaemia (particularly in young or small animals).
When managing and controlling fleas, it is important to consider the environment as well as all of your pets (not just those diagnosed with fleas). Your home should be treated with a household spray at least annually and all pets should be treated with a flea prevention treatment prescribed for them according to your vets instructions (preparations are usually species specific can be toxic to other animals). There are now many different forms of treatment to suit your pet including tablets, spot-ons, sprays and injections.
A flea infestation can take a long time eradicate due to the nature of the fleas life-cycle in the environment. Top tips when treating a home include vacuuming (emitting vibrations) and occupying the area ( so there is carbon dioxide) to stimulate the eggs to hatch so that they can be treated. Remember to repeat vacuuming and empty the vacuum bag to remove any potential un-hatched eggs!
Worms are endoparasites, they live inside the animals body. Your pet can contract worms in several different ways including ingestion of worm eggs (present in raw meat, faeces, grasses and urine or from grooming other animals), from their mother (through the placenta or from feeding) or from other hosts carrying worm eggs, such as fleas.
It is important to remember that worms can not only cause serious health problems in pets, but some worms also pose a threat to human health, particularly in the elderly, very young or those with a compromised immune system. The most common types of worms found in cats and dogs are tapeworms and roundworms ( roundworms are a human health risk).
It can be difficult to tell if your pet has worms as they are inside the body. However, there are some signs to look out for. These include worms present in faeces or vomit (these may be entire or segments and may look like spaghetti or grains or rice), irritation of the bottom or worms seen around this area and weight loss in severe infestations.
You should also know if your pet is at a higher risk of contracting worms. They may be at higher risk if they eat raw food, hunt, have had fleas or are still very young.
It is extremely important to protect against worms through regular treatment to maintain the health of yourself and your family as well as your pet. Remember that some worms can be transmitted to humans and can also cause blindness in those with a weakened immune system. It is therefore important to keep on top of regular worming treatment for your pet whilst also maintaining excellent hand hygiene ( especially where young children are involved) as worm eggs can be found on your pets skin and coat.
A specific worming treatment and regime will be prescribed by your vet according to your lifestyle and your pets risk level. There is a range of treatment options available to control worms including tablets and spot-ons.
Remember is it always important to clean up after your dog to help reduce the risk of parasites spreading between animals or people!
Ticks are another type of ecto-parasite, they live on the surface on the animal. They belong to the arachnid family, are very small and feed on the blood of their host. They attach themselves to animals by burying their mouthparts under the skin.
Ticks can be seen in a range of sizes and colours, though usually they are described by pet owners as looking like grey lumps. These parasites can carry a number of diseases, including Lyme’s disease and a severe infestation can cause aneamia in young animals. It is therefore important to use tick prevention treatment on a regular basis.
If you see a tick on your pet, please do not try to remove it with tweezers. Your veterinary nurse will be happy to remove the tick for you or if you’d prefer to remove the tick yourself, always use a specially designed tick remover; using a gentle pull and twist technique. This helps to ensure that the whole head, INCLUDING THE MOUTHPARTS is removed. Simply pulling the tick off can result in the mouthparts remaining buried in the skin which can lead to infections.
Your vet or nurse will be happy to sit down and talk through all treatment options for your pet to ensure they are receiving the very best of care. If you are unsure about administering treatment, your vet or nurse can do this for you or show you how to give treatment correctly and effectively.