Fleas, worms and ticks can cause diseases in your pets, and they can take a long time to get under control. Prevention is always better than cure, so ask your vet for advice on how to control these unpleasant parasites.
It’s often thought that fleas jump from one animal to another, but this is actually a misconception. Instead, cats and dogs pick up fleas from their environments, such as the local park or a friend’s house, where there has been an infested animal. Infested animals drop flea eggs, which hatch and jump aboard our pet once they sense the warmth and vibration of a potential host! A female flea can lay up to 50 eggs a day on your pooch. These eggs drop off onto carpets, couches and bedding, where they remain until they sense the presence of an animal, at which time they hatch into fleas, jump aboard the new host, and the cycle begins again. When there is a flea infestation, only 5% of the entire flea population will be found on the pet, with the other 95% being found in the environment. Flea eggs can also attach to clothing and shoes easily. This explains why indoor only pets can also get fleas.
This cycle can take up to three months to get under control, which is why flea treatment should be administered regularly, all year round, regardless of the season. You may need to treat your home by vacuuming carpets more regularly and washing your pet’s bedding at a high temperature. Flea products range in efficacy and duration. Always read the labels before administration.
For most pets, topical flea treatments work very well. Oral versions can be handy for those who swim a lot, or in households with young children. Not all animals will happily swallow a pill, so topical flea treatments remain a popular choice, especially for cats. Ask your vet for advice on the most suitable product for your pet, and how to administer it properly.
Puppies and kittens should be wormed more frequently than adults. Frequency is also dependent on the specific product used. Worming is usually instantly effective, but if you’re concerned, your vet can perform a faecal test to assess the frequency and efficacy of your worming regime.
While worming is effective in killing worms that are present in the intestine at the time of treatment, it is not a vaccine against future attacks. This is why regular treatment is essential to your pet’s health. Dogs and cats can be re-infected from other pets and from their environments, so this is something to consider if your cat is a great roamer, or your dog is the most social pooch at the park! This is also why it is essential to treat all animals in your household at the same time. The most common types are roundworms, hookworms, whipworms and tapeworms, and symptoms of worm infestation can include diarrhoea, poor stamina and weight loss.
Most of the common worms found on pets are zoonotic parasites, which means they can also be passed from animals to humans. This makes worming your pet regularly even more important, especially if you have children in the family.
In New Zealand, ticks are less of a problem than fleas or worms. The most common tick species here that infests warm-blooded animals is commonly known as the New Zealand cattle tick. They can, however, feed on many species of animals, including dogs and cats, so if you walk your dog in an area with sheep or cattle, it’s best to use a tick control product. Avoid areas with tall grass and bush as these are ideal tick breeding grounds. Most tick activity is between late spring and early autumn, and symptoms to look out for include discomfort, irritation and skin infections at the site of the bite. Most ticks will drop off naturally once dead. If the tick doesn’t drop off, you can try to remove it using tweezers. Pull gently, but watch that the mouthparts of the tick are not left in the skin as this can lead to infection. If you don’t feel confident to remove a tick yourself, take your pet to see your vet.
In Australia, the biggest danger with ticks is tick paralysis. It is a syndrome caused by the Australian paralysis tick (Ixodes holocyclus). They are found along the east coast of Australia, from north Queensland to eastern Victoria. The toxins in their saliva can cause paralysis and death in cats and dogs. They are difficult to be tell apart from the other types of ticks so make sure to contact your vet if you found a tick on your pet. It is very important to be vigilant in areas where paralysis tick occurs and use appropriate products to prevent infestation.