There are a number of parasites found in pets, some are passed from the mother to offspring and some are picked up from the environment. It is important for the health & wellbeing of your pet - as well as you and your home - that he/she is properly treated. Prevention is definitely the most effective method and regular flea and worm control will protect your pet and reduce environmental contamination.
The larvae of these worms are often passed across the placenta from mother before birth or via the milk when suckling; they migrate around the body until they become adult worms in the intestines. Once these worms have reached maturity, they start producing large numbers of eggs. Animals re-infect themselves by ingesting these eggs during grooming. Heavy worm burdens can cause poor growth and diarrhoea. Humans too can be at risk from these worms, especially children, who inadvertently ingest the eggs after handling pets or playing in contaminated gardens or play areas. Roundworms cause Toxocariasis. This usually affects children under the age of 10 years, where the larvae can cause organ damage, particularly to the eye, resulting in impaired vision.
These are flat segmented worms which need an intermediate host, generally a flea or a small rodent, to complete their life-cycle. They attach themselves to the small intestine and can grow up to 5 metres long. They appear as flat ribbon-shaped pieces or pale segments the size of a grain of rice in the faeces. Pets can become infected whilst grooming, by ingesting fleas which are carrying tape worm larvae or, in the case of cats, by catching infected prey such as mice. These larvae soon turn into adult worms.
Cats can acquire lungworm infection by eating snails or slugs (although this is rare and more often seen in dogs). More commonly, cats can acquire lungworm by hunting birds or small mammals that have eaten infected snails or slugs. It is therefore important that outdoor cats are regularly wormed, especially if they are keen hunters.
Fleas are the primary cause of skin problems in animals. Some pets suffer from an allergic reaction to the flea saliva and need only a couple of bites from a flea to trigger a severe reaction. Pet fleas can also bite people although they can’t live on us. If there are large numbers, you may spot one or two but they are designed to run rapidly through the hair, so it may be easier to look for flea dirt. This is black gritty material which, if placed on a damp tissue, will turn red.
Each adult female flea will take a blood meal, then mature and lay thousands of eggs which are shed into carpets, laminate floors and furnishings. These eggs hatch into larvae which feed on skin detritus and flea faeces. In the pupal stage they can lie dormant for up to a year until the correct conditions of warmth, humidity and vibration occur for them to hatch into adult fleas. This dormant phase can result in a severe flea epidemic, rapidly developing. Only adult fleas, which make up less than 5% of the total flea population, live on our pets. Consequently, correct environmental treatment is an essential part of successful flea control.
Ticks are not only a nuisance and an irritation to your pet but they can also, in some instances, transmit diseases. Ticks are generally found in grassland, scrub, shrubs and low-hanging branches, waiting for animals to brush against them so that they can climb on board. The tick then burrows its head parts into the skin to suck a blood meal and become engorged. At this point, they look like a silvery grey or brown bubble or wart like lesion. The commonest problem associated with ticks is the sores and secondary infections at the site of attachment. Please contact us if you think your pet may have a tick as they should not be pulled off.
These mites are found in the ear canal and may occasionally colonise the adjacent skin of the head. The mites cause irritation of the lining of the ear canal which then becomes full of a crusty black discharge. It can give rise to intense irritation, causing head shaking, scratching of the ears and secondary infections.
As with most things, prevention is better than cure. Regular worming and flea control will help to prevent many of the internal and external parasites that your cat can acquire. We can give advice on the most suitable worming and flea control for your cat and, if you find it difficult to administer the treatment, we offer complimentary appointments with one off our Veterinary Nurses, who will be able to do it for you*.
* worming and flea products will be charged for.