The Importance of Parasite Control in Our Pets

Our pets have many opportunities to pick up nasty parasites during their daily lives - from contact with other animals, to exploring the great outdoors. These parasites can have negative effects on our pets and our own health. Luckily there are plenty of products out there to help us keep these nasty creatures under control. In this article we will be taking a look at the key parasites that we need to control and how we achieve this.

Meet the beasts...

First up are fleas. These are small brown insects just visible to the naked eye. They tend to live in the environment, either in cracks in hard furnishings or in soft furnishings. In order to survive they must have regular blood meals which they obtain by hopping on our pets. They can affect all animals, as well as humans, causing small itchy raised bites. In most cases, they are simply irritating to our pets and ourselves. However, some animals can develop flea allergic dermatitis (FAD). This means that even small numbers of fleas, or the presence of flea dirt, can cause a severe itchy reaction that can have a serious impact on an animal's quality of life. In addition, fleas can carry and pass on tapeworm to any animals that they feed from.

Unlike fleas, lice and mites are very host specific so although they can’t be passed from your pets to you, they may be able to pass to other pets of the same species. They cause very unpleasant and serious itching. Since they spend their entire life on your pet rather than in the environment, they are simple to treat. The use of a spot on or tablet treatment will prevent your pet having a lice or mite infestation.

Ticks are small spider-like creatures that live in woodlands and areas with long grasses. They attach themselves to any passing warm-blooded animal and feed on their blood, growing during this time. Once they are full of blood, they drop off and return to the environment. They can affect any animal including humans, however, pets are at a higher risk as they are close to the ground and tend to run though long grasses rather than sticking to the paths. On humans, ticks can be easy to see, however, our hairy pets hide them a bit better so may require some more thorough searching to find. Tick bites tend to be pain free and not itchy so may appear harmless. However, due to ticks feeding on multiple different hosts during their lifetimes they may carry and spread dangerous diseases, such as Lyme disease. The longer a tick is attached to your pet the higher risk of passing on diseases. For these reasons, fast identification and correct removal is essential.

While all the parasites mentioned so far can be found on the outside of your pets, (ectoparasites), worms can infect the inside of your pets (endoparasites). Many different parasitic worms exist, and their effects and severity vary between them. Some can have serious side effects such as anaemia, internal bleeding or chronic weight loss, while others manifest as a mild stomach upset. While a lot of worms will only affect specific species, some may be able to be spread from pet to humans. Once infected with a heavy worm burden, treatment may be tricky so prevention via a suitable worm control is the best strategy.

Controlling parasites

There are a huge range of products available to control parasites in your pets, the choice can be overwhelming to many pet owners initially. However, discussions with your vet should be able to help you to choose the best anti-parasites product or combination of products to suit you and your pets. Here is a quick overview:

●     For ticks, the best control is to regularly check your pets after walks or daily and remove ticks correctly as soon as possible. If you are unsure on how to remove them then bring them into the vets and one of our team will be able to help

●     Spot-ons are a great simple way to apply antiparasitic treatments for pets that are tricky to give tablets to. They come in a variety of brands with different application frequencies and will each control different combinations of parasites. It is important to make sure your pet can’t lick them off or be groomed by other pets, as well as avoiding swimming soon after application

●     Tablets are a good option if your pet will take them and again are available in a variety of brands each with different application frequencies and parasites controlled.

●     Collars are available to repel and kill some external parasites, such as fleas and ticks. You may need to provide wormer in addition.

Remember when administering or applying any antiparasitic treatments always carefully read and follow all instructions. Our vets would be more than happy to discuss parasite control plans for your pet anytime.

Don’t forget the environment!

Parasites such as fleas that live much of their life in the environment may require additional control strategies to eliminate them from your home. This is particularly important if any of your pets suffer from FAD as even small numbers of fleas present could cause an allergic flare up. Simple measures like hoovering regularly and washing pet bedding on high heat cycles may be adequate to nip the problem in the bud. More serious infestations may require a chemical spray to eliminate these pesky creatures.

Parasites can come from anywhere, so regular effective parasite control is important to keep your pets happy and healthy all year round. Not only will it stop your pets from suffering any of the unpleasant side effects from these creatures, but it will also keep yourself and your family protected from any unwanted company.