How often do you treat your pets for ticks, fleas and worms? Ticks, fleas and worms will make your pet and you squirm! And, worse, they can make your pets very sick.
Fleas are not life threatening but they can carry Tapeworm larvae, and for some pets their bite 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 for thousands of years and are very adaptable; they are most active in spring and autumn. Understanding their lifecycle is key to preventing these critters from infesting your pets and home.
Adult fleas are the life stage that will arrive on your pet. These adults feed and lay eggs. The eggs fall off your pet into the environment – your dog’s bed, the carpet, your bed. When the time is right these eggs hatch out into the next life stage, a larva. This microscopic worm burrows down away from light.
When it has eaten enough it pupates. This is the clever bit. The flea inside the pupae 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 can also 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 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.
Ehrlichia canis: Spread by the Rhipicephalus sanguineus (brown dog tick). This is a parasite infestation of white blood cells.
Babesia Canis: Spread by Rhipicephalus sanguineus (brown dog tick). This is a parasite infestation of red blood cells. Can be fatal.
Hyalomma tick bite: Hyalomma tick bites cause death of extensive areas of tissue around the bite.
It is traditionally thought that ticks are picked up by pets 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 and living to continue feeding 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.
Ehrlichia canis: This is found 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 who are not too sick will recover well with a course of antibiotics. Very sick animals have a much more guarded prognosis.
Babesia canis: This is most often found 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. Treatment for complicated cases is prolonged and expensive.
Hyalomma tick bites: Although all ticks cause a local skin reaction, 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.
Tick and Flea Prevention
There are many types of anti-parasitic flea and tick treatments on the market. Our staff can assist you to set a protocol which will suit you and your pets. It is important to always follow the manufacture’s instructions, and we recommend year-round treatment due to the flea life-cycle and mild winters when ticks and fleas can remain active.
Dogs and cats are curious creatures and will sniff, lick, and eat all sorts of things whilst investigating their environment. Then, when they are done with that, they will greet each other, and you, with a lick and a nuzzle, and 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, and 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 to other areas of the body such as the lungs, the eye, and 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 into 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, and weight loss.
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 six months of age, and adults dewormed a minimum of three times a year. It is essential to use a broad-spectrum de-wormer to cover all types of worms. Not all de-wormers are active against Spirocerca please ask staff about this to ensure your pets get the best cover.