Flea, Worm & Tick Advice
Ticks are members of the Arachnid family, which means they have 8 legs like spiders. Unlike spiders, ticks feed on animal blood and human blood. Each tick will attach to a host for up to 10 days. During this time, they will feed by cutting a hole in the skin and secreting an anti-coagulant so that the blood does not clot. During feeding, disease can spread from the tick’s stomach to the host’s blood.
There are 3 main tick species in the UK – Ixodes, Dermacentor and Rhipicephalus – which all carry different diseases. The most common disease is Lyme’s disease, carried by Ixodes ticks, which causes a variety of clinical signs including a rash, fever, swollen joints and lethargy. Babesia is carried by Dermacentor ticks and causes anaemia and bleeding, and Ehrlichia is carried by Rhipicephalus ticks, and also causes anaemia, bleeding and joint pain.
Here in Suffolk, we are one of the top three areas of greatest density of ticks in the UK – along with Devon and South Wales. So make sure your pets are protected!! There are several ways to protect against tick borne diseases. The best is to make sure you use a product that repels ticks so that they don’t bite your pet at all. Alternatively, you can use a product that kills ticks quickly before they pass on disease. If you do find a tick attached to your pet, make sure to remove it quickly and cleanly using a specific tick removal device. If in doubt, contact us for advice. Emma, our nurse, is happy to show you how to remove ticks and give advice on the best preventative for your pet.
Worms fall into 3 categories in the UK – round worms, tape worms and Lungworm. Round worms and Tapeworms inhabit the gut and if your pet is infested, you may see worms in their faeces or coming out of their bottom!
Lungworm is a worm that is passed on by eating snails and slugs but it resides in the pulmonary artery, near your pets heart. It is called lung worm because when the adults lay eggs, the larvae hatch out and burrow into the surrounding tissue i.e. the lungs, and cause coughing. Lungworm can also cause clotting problems and fitting.
You may also have read about Heartworm. Fortunately, so far this has not become endemic to the UK so if you live in the UK, regular treatment is unnecessary. However if you travel to Europe regularly, preventative treatment is strongly recommended.
Roundworms and Tapeworms are reasonably easy to treat with tablets, liquids or spot ons and treatment should be given every 3-6 months depending on which product you are using.
Lungworm is harder to treat. Cats seem to have a natural resistance to Lungworm and are therefore at less risk. Dogs should be treated monthly with milbemycin oxime or fenbendazole to prevent infection. This is especially important in puppies, who tend to be curious about their environment and have a tendency to eat snails!
Most of the fleas found on pets are cat fleas or Ctenocephalides felis. Fleas have a lifecycle that starts with the adult female flea feeding on its host. Adult fleas suck blood and use the blood to produce eggs. These eggs are laid in the environment and given correct warmth and humidity, will hatch into larvae (small worms). The inside of our houses are ideal breeding grounds. These larvae grow and eventually pupate (like a caterpillar pupates and emerges as a butterfly) to hatch out as an adult flea. One adult flea can lay up to 8000 eggs in a lifetime.
All adult fleas require blood to survive. In small numbers, fleas are not dangerous but are very irritating to our pets and cause scratching, biting and skin irritations. However in large numbers, fleas can be fatal, especially to smaller pets such as kittens. Fleas also carry tapeworm eggs so when your pet grooms themselves and accidently swallows one, they become infected with tapeworms too.
Flea control revolves around 3 basic principles – treat your pet, treat all in contact animals and treat your environment. The pupae stage of the flea lifecycle can stay dormant until the flea inside senses a host nearby. This they do by responding to vibration so lots of vacuuming helps to encourage hatching. Most environmental sprays will kill eggs and larvae for 12 months but the adults for just 2 months. This means, if you have had a flea infestation, you need to treat all animals monthly repeatedly for life and spray your whole environment twice, 2 months apart. If you are having problems with fleas, feel free to come in and chat to us and we can advise on the best product for your pet. Flea treatments come in many options now including spot ons, tablets, injections and collars.
The products we recommend
Christchurch Vets are now recommending a monthly tablet for dogs that treats for fleas, ticks and round worms. In addition to this monthly tablet, you will need to use a tape wormer every 6 months. We also have spot ons and collars that are long lasting flea and tick repellants.
For cats, we recommend a spot on that treats fleas, ticks, roundworms and tapeworms.
If you have recently had a flea infestation, we also have environmental sprays to bring your problem under control quickly and effectively.