This time of year, brings us to parasite time. It is the time when traditionally fleas and ticks become a real problem (fleas more so now are a year-round problem due to central heating, ticks more seasonal).
Fleas are parasites that live by sucking on the blood of their hosts. There are separate cat (Ctenocephalides felis) and dog (Ctenocphalides Canis) fleas. A female flea is capable of laying 50 eggs per day and these do not generally stay on your pet but will fall off into the household environment and can lay dormant for several years before hatching out and causing re-infestation. As well as making life extremely uncomfortable for your pet and possibly yourself. Fleas are also the host for tapeworm (which will have laid their eggs in the GI tract of the flea). When your pet ingests the flea the tape worm can then hatch, consequently causing your pet to have a tapeworm infestation.
Ticks (Ixodida) are arachnids and tend to be found in long grass areas where either sheep or deer can be found. Ticks jump on to your pet when out walking and will burrow through the coat to the skin where they will bury their head beneath the skin to drink their meal (blood). The tick will usually stay in place until it is completely engorged. Ticks can carry diseases, the most common in this country is Lymes Disease which is zoonotic (transmittable to humans) and now also seen in the UK is Babesia spp. Ticks should be removed as soon as possible correctly with a tick hook. If stress is caused to the tick on removal it can cause it to vomit its saliva into the blood stream increasing the risk of infection.
There are many licensed products on the market for treating both fleas and ticks. Some treatments come in a topical ‘spot on’ solution others in oral tablet form. There are also some reliable collars available for fleas and ticks. It is wise to discuss your pet’s parasite prevention requirements with your vet as there are a lot of ineffective products on the market that will be a waste of money. There have also been incidents of fake products for sale on the internet (cheaper is not always best). It is imperative that you do not apply products containing permethrin on your cats as it is highly toxic with a high risk of death.
It is very advisable when grooming your pet on a regular basis to check your pet’s skin to ensure they haven’t picked up any parasites.
Please enjoy this time of year with your pet particularly the lovely walks we can do with our dogs but just be careful we do not bring home any small stowaways.
Vikki Marshall RVN APHC CertCFVHNut