Article – Parasites

How often do you treat your pets for ticks, fleas and worms? Monthly, every few months, once a year, when you remember? Ticks, fleas and worms will make your pet and you squirm! And worse they can make your pets very sick.

 

Fleas

Fleas are not life threatening but they can carry Tapeworm lave and for some their bites starts a nasty allergic reaction – Flea allergic Dermatitis. Fleas might have a preferred food source but they will bite and suck the blood of any warm body around, which could be you!

 

Fleas have been around thousands of years and are very adaptably, they are most active in spring and autumn. Understanding their life cycle is key to preventing these critters from infesting your pets/home. Adult fleas are the life stage that will arrive on your pet. These adults feed and lay eggs. These eggs fall off your pet in to the environment (your dog’s bed, the carpet, your bed!) When the time is right these eggs hatch out in to the next life stage, a larvae. This microscopic worm burrows down away from light. When it has eaten enough it pupates. This is the clever bit! The flea inside this pupa can wait until the conditions outside are optimal before hatching. The new adult flea needs warmth, humidity and food. How do they know “food” is ready for them? They feel vibrations from movement and also can sense change in the level of CO2 in the environment. For every adult you see there are eggs, larvae and pupae stages just waiting to re-infest your pets!

 

Ticks

Ticks carry serious diseases. It is important to understand that not all types of ticks carry these diseases and not all of the carrier type will be infected.

 

Babesia Canis – Spread by Rhipicephalus sanguineus (brown dog tick) – Parasite infestation of red blood cells.

Ehrlichiacanis – Spread by the Rhipicephalus sanguineus (brown dog tick) – Parasite infestation of white blood cells.

Hyalomma tick bite – Hyalomma tick bites cause necrosis (death) of extensive area of tissue around the bite.

 

It is traditionally thought that ticks are picked up by pets that are out in the bush but some ticks live just as happily in a domestic environment. Ticks have various hosts during their life cycle, so even in your garden your pet could pick up a tick that was dropped off by a passing mouse, bird, etc.

 

The majority of tick-borne diseases are passed on when ticks feed off your pet, so to prevent them biting is the key. It is important to use a good quality anti-tick treatment and to follow the instructions. Frequent grooming and careful examination after walks to remove ticks before they attach is very effective.

 

Ehrlichiacanis: most often in dogs but can affect cats. In its acute form this disease causes a high temperature, depression, anorexia and pale gums. It may be possible to see the parasite in the monocytes (white blood cells) in a blood sample taken from the dog’s ear. This disease is often seen in young animals who are still building their immunity. Ehrlichia can become chronic, subclinical (no signs seen), causing more complications such as kidney damage. Pets that are not too sick will recover well with a course of antibiotics. Very sick animals have a much more guarded prognosis.

 

Babesia canis: most often in dogs but cats can become infected. Of the various types of Babesia parasites one of the South African ones, Babesiacanis rossi, causes very severe disease. This parasite infests the red blood cells. Initial signs of infection are the same as for Ehrlichia. Very severe infections can cause death within one day! A mild uncomplicated case can be treated with a simple injection.

 

Hyalomma tick bites: Although all ticks cause a local skin reaction, inflammation, when the Hyalomma tick bites it causes the skin around the bite to die. This necrotic area can spread and become quite large, leaving a large open wound. This cannot be stitched until it is ascertained that no more skin is going to die off. These wounds heal very well, depending on the area where they are situated.
There are many types of anti-parasitic flea and tick treatments on the market, pop in to reception and ask the staff which is recommended for your pet. It is important to follow the manufactures instructions and we recommend round the year treatment due to flea lifecycle and mild winters when ticks and fleas can be active year-round.

 

Worms

Dogs and cats are curious creatures and will sniff, lick, eat all sorts of things whilst investigating their environment. Then when they have done with that they will greet each other and you with a lick and a nuzzle, groom themselves and their friends. This is the way worms are transmitted.

 

Intestinal worms – hookworms, roundworms, tapeworms and whipworms.

All of these except whipworm can infest humans.

 

Spirocerca lupi – Oesophageal worm

Intestinal worms often go undetected as patients are asymptomatic. A large infestation or very young, very elderly or immune compromised pets can show signs such as loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhoea, anaemia, weight loss. Licking around the anus or scooting on their bottom can also be a sign of worms, especially tapeworm. Some life stages of these worms can migrate other areas of the body such as the lungs, the eye, muscle tissue etc.

 

Spirocerca lupi is a deadly worm that lives in the dog’s oesophagus. This worm is spread just like the others and burrows through the wall of the intestinal tract, through the blood vessels and then burrows in to the wall of the oesophagus. The nodules that they create here and live in can over time become cancerous. Clinical signs of Spirocerca infestation are often only seen when the disease has progressed to a non-treatable stage.

 

Signs of Spirocerca are regurgitation of food, difficulty swallowing, weight loss.

Click here to read more about Spirocerca lupi

 

Deworming tablets and other preparations are safe and easy to give as many are made in a palatable form. Puppies and kittens should be dewormed monthly until 6month of age and adults dewormed a minimum of 3 times a year. It is essential to use a board spectrum de-wormer to cover all types of worms. Not all de-wormers are active against Spirocerca or their frequency needs to be increased to be effective.

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