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Fleas, Ticks and Worms

Find out how to get rid of these unwanted pests

  • Fleas
  • Ticks
  • Worms

Fleas

Fleas are a very common problem in our pets - most cats and dogs will experience a flea infestation at some point in their lives. It can sometimes be difficult to identify that your pet has fleas, as some pets will show minimal signs!

Fleas survive by feeding on blood, and can cause a range of symptoms. Some pets only experience a mild irritation to fleas, but animals can be allergic to flea saliva, causing intense itching and skin damage, a condition known as flea allergic dermatitis.

Fleas can also carry tapeworms and can be involved in the transmission of bacterial diseases. They can even be responsible for life threatening anaemia in kittens and puppies.

Remember that your pet may not be the only one to suffer and you or your family may receive itchy bites too.

Adult fleas will jump onto your pet as they are attracted to body heat and movement. They bite and start to feed on your pet's blood. Within 48 hours they begin to produce eggs (up to 40 a day!). These eggs drop off the animal into the environment of your home and develop into larvae which hide in carpets and bedding where they feed on organic debris such as flea droppings and shed skin cells. The larvae then become pupae, which can survive for many months, waiting for suitable conditions to emerge into adult fleas.

The lifecycle can take as little as 2-3 weeks to complete in warmer temperatures such as a central heated house. This means a population explosion can take place very quickly if your pet is not treated regularly for fleas. A female flea can produce more than 40 eggs per day.

There are a variety of products available to protect your dog or cat from fleas and please discuss the problem with one of our very helpful vets, nurses or reception staff and we will be pleased to help you decide on the most appropriate treatment option available for your pet.

How do you apply spot-on flea treatments to your pet? Watch this handy video

Ticks

Ticks are blood sucking parasites that attach to your pet and can transmit infectious diseases. You are most likely to find them in spring and autumn but they are active throughout the year.

Ticks are found in grassland and woodland, and are big enough to see with the naked eye. They are often white with an egg shaped body, but can be darker in colour after a blood meal.

The most common diseases ticks transmit in the UK are Lyme disease and Babesiosis.

​Lyme disease is a serious bacterial infection which can cause inappetence, lethargy, fever, lameness, swollen/painful joints and swollen lymph nodes. Once diagnosed, the treatment often consists of 4 weeks of antibiotics and supportive care. Humans can also get this disease from ticks.

​Babesia is rare in the UK, but the species of tick that spreads this disease has been found in southern England and on the continent. It infects the red blood cells and causes the body to destroy them. It can present as depression, pale or yellow gums, swollen abdomen and fever. It can take a long time for the disease to present itself following infection by a tick, months to years even.

Worried about ticks?

If you find a tick on your pet, it should be removed to lessen the risk of disease, but this must be done carefully as to not leave the mouth parts behind. Twisting is the best method, and you can find handy tick removers which aid this.

​We also have many products to prevent and treat ticks, these include spot on treatments, tablets and collars and each product works for varying amounts of time. Please ask for more information about which product will suit your pet.

Worms

Worms are one thing you don’t want to share with your pet.

​Worm infestations in our pets are more common than you may think, even the most cared for cat or dog is likely to be affected by worms at some stage of their lives. Most pets will show few signs, but a large burden of worms can cause serious health problems to your pet e.g. diarrhoea, vomiting, weight loss and anaemia. This is particularly true for young animals- hence worming frequently is important in puppies and kittens.

​Some worms, in particular Toxocara canis (the dog roundworm), can also pose a human health risk and can lead to serious illnesses e.g. blindness in children.

Where do worms come from?

Pets can pick up worms in a variety of ways:

  • From eating infected prey species or raw meat
  • From infected animals
  • From eating the larvae or eggs of worms in faeces or even grass where faeces have previously been

Roundworms

These live in your pet's intestines and survive by feeding off the intestinal contents. Most infections are acquired by swallowing worm eggs which are passed in the faeces of infected animals. Kittens and puppies can acquire worms from their mother during pregnancy or nursing. Worm eggs can survive in soil for long periods of time. These worms most commonly cause weight loss, failure to thrive and can also cause vomiting and diarrhoea.

Tapeworms

These are long flat worms that attach to the intestines, and need an intermediate host such as fleas and rodents to complete their lifecycle. Fleas are infected with tapeworm larvae, then the pet swallows the fleas while grooming and the larvae develop into adult worms in your pet's gut.

​When mature, the worms shed egg filled body segments. These resemble grains of rice and are often seen on the pets bedding or at the rear end.

​The tapeworm eggs are eaten by flea larvae in the environment and the cycle begins again.

​Clinical signs are as with roundworms, however, if your dog is also rubbing it's bottom on the ground or if your cat is licking it's bottom excessively tapeworms could be the cause.  

Hookworms

These are blood sucking worms that often affect puppies especially when they are kept in large numbers. It is a common problem in rescue centres and retired race greyhounds. They can cause anaemia which may cause your dog to be lethargic.

Lungworms

Lungworm has been a problem in Southern England and South Wales, but it is important to be aware of these parasites as cases have been reported elsewhere in the UK.

​Lungworm use slugs and snails as their intermediate host, this means they need them as part of their life cycle to develop into adult worms. Hence, if your dog eats infected slugs or snails, or even licks or eats grass where they have been, they are at risk of lungworm infection which can be very serious and life threatening.

​The adult worms live in the heart, and the eggs hatch and develop in the lungs. This can cause signs such as coughing, exercise intolerance and lethargy. They can also prevent the blood from clotting correctly, leaving these pets at risk of bleeding inappropriately.

​This can be prevented with appropriate worming.

Protecting your pet from worms

There are a variety of products available to protect your dog or cat from worms, so please discuss prevention with one of our very helpful vets, nurses or reception staff and we will be pleased to help you decide on the most appropriate treatment option available for your pet.

​You cannot always see evidence of worm infections so routine worming is necessary to prevent problems. It is also important to remember that even the best product cannot prevent re-infection in adult animals and your pet can be re-infected shortly after worming treatments so regularly worming your pet is advisable.

  • Worm adult pets every 3 months (more regularly for hunting cats)
  • Treat for fleas regularly, as they are a crucial part of the tapeworm life cycle
  • Wash your hands before eating to prevent human infection
  • Disinfect food and water bowls
  • Remove faeces from the garden regularly and pick up faeces when on walks
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