There are plenty of nasty bugs and parasites out there that cause disease. Some of these diseases can be very mild to an adult dog or cat, but can cause significant disease in young pets or senior pets, or, sometimes, treating the pet’s disease can be just as dangerous as the disease itself. This is why prevention is ALWAYS best, and is significantly less expensive.

All parasites are preventable. Speak with one of Parkinson vet’s friendly staff to work out a parasite prevention program that will work for you. We can show you how to effectively administer preventions for your pet, and find preventatives which will be effective, but easy to give.

Fleas (ctenocephalides felis):

Fleas are bloodsucking parasites that feed, breed and lay eggs on your pets. Not only do they make you and your pet very itchy, but they can cause some more serious problems, such as flea allergy dermatitis, carry parasites such as flea tapeworm and haemobartonella, in large flea burdens they can also cause anaemia, caused by fleas drinking too much of your pet’s blood!

Flea burdens, once established, can prove costly and take months to eradicate. Prevention is key, and it is best to use flea preventatives on all pets in the household. We recommend Comfortis and Frontline Original for dogs, and Frontline Original and Revolution for cats.

How do you tell if your pet has fleas?

The first sign that your pet has fleas, is that your pet will start to scratch. Even if you cannot find the little cuprits themselves, you will be able to see small black specks of grit, like finely ground black pepper. Although this is call flea dirt, this isn’t dirt – this is digested dried blood.

Why should you protect your pet against fleas?

First and foremost, fleas cause skin disease in pets, ranging from mild irritation, to sores, scaly skin to an allergy condition which can take months to treat.

THE LIFECYCLE OF A FLEA

5% of fleas live in the environment as an adult, 95 % of fleas live as eggs, larvae or pupae. For effective flea control it is essential to break the lifecycle in the environment.

  • Adult Fleas – jump onto your dog or cat, feed on its blood and then start laying eggs.
  • Eggs – one female lays up to 50 eggs per day, they drop off in carpets and bedding before hatching.
  • Larvae – the hatched eggs release larvae which move away from light, deeper into carpets and under furniture before developing into pupae. The larvae feed on organic debris and at this stage can consume tapeworm eggs, allowing them to become an intermediate host for the development of tapeworms.

This lifecycle can take as little as 2-3 weeks but can last up to 6 months. To rid your household from fleas, you must break this cycle.

A well-designed program is necessary to maintain a flea free environment, and prevention is definitely better than cure. There are many different flea products available today and the options can be confusing. Not all products are registered for use in young puppies and kittens and may be quite dangerous, so make sure that you have the right advice before starting a flea treatment program.

Some tips you can use to break the life cycle which are quite inexpensive:

  • Vacuuming carpeted areas regularly, no less than once every two days. This will help to manually remove the eggs and larval stages from the environment, preventing the maturation of adult fleas.
  • Wash bedding and blankets on a hot cycle.
  • Wash/hydrobath dogs once weekly with a flea shampoo.
  • Treat all pets in the household at once.

Heartworm (dirofilaria immitis):

Heartworm are nasty little critters that, as their name suggests, live in the heart. They are carried by mosquitoes which transfer the parasites from an infested pet to a new pet (dogs and cats can be affected). Adult heartworms can grow up to 30 cm long. They live in the blood vessels of the heart and lungs, restricting blood flow, which leads to congestive heart failure.

For heartworm, prevention is key. It is vital to start your pet on a heartworm preventative from 12 weeks of age. Yearly injection, monthly or daily tablets and ‘spot-on’ treatments are available to prevent adult heartworm in dogs and cats. If your dog has not been given any of these to prevent heartworm, your veterinarian can do a quick test to determine if your dog is already infested. Treatment is available, however it is very dangerous and does not come without serious risk. Prevention is the best and safest way keep your pet happy and healthy. Come in to talk to our friendly staff to find out a preventative which is best for your needs!

We recommend Proheart SR-12 (annual injection) for dogs and Revolution for cats.

How can you tell if your pet is infested?

The symptoms for pets with heartworm include any of the following:

  • Dry and persistent cough
  • Lack of stamina when exercising
  • Weight loss
  • Dry coat
  • Listlessness or weakness

In more advanced cases there may be heart failure, distressed breathing, a distended abdomen, severe damage to internal organs, and sometimes collapse from sudden destruction of a pet’s red blood cells. It is important to appreciate that this potentially fatal disease usually progresses very slowly. By the time an infested pet starts to show symptoms, at least half of the pet’s lungs are involved: hence the importance of early diagnosis and prevention.

A quick, easy blood test is the best way to tell if your pet has heartworm disease.

Intestinal Worms

Do you know where your pet’s tongue has been?

Unfortunately, intestinal worms pose a threat to your family as well as your pet. Pets that suffer from intestinal worms may show signs such as poor condition and a dull coat, diarrhoea, anaemia and weight loss. If young children become infested, not only causing an itchy bottom and digestive upset, they can potentially cause diseases of the eyes, liver, lungs and brain.

Intestinal worms are mainly spread through a faecal-oral route. So if you notice your pet has been licking his/her bottom lately, they may have worms. If you suspect your pet has worms, there’s a few things you can do to treat your pet and prevent transmission to your family. The first is to treat your pet with a good quality intestinal wormer, such as Popantel All-Wormer or Drontal. Secondly, make sure your pet’s environment is free from re-infestation. You can do this by cleaning up your pet’s faeces after your pet defecates. Sand pits and play areas with sand or other small grained ground cover can look like a big litter box to your cat – make sure these areas are restricted away from your cat. Make sure your children wash their hands after playing with dogs, and restrict access to your cat’s litter tray. Also, if your family and pet is headed for a day at the beach, make sure your family wears shoes, as worm larvae can hatch in the sand and may burrow into your family’s feet.

Hydatid tapeworm – Hydatid tapeworm is a major risk to people. Hydatid infestation in people can cause the formation of hydatid cysts anywhere in the body, and this can be life-threatening. A good quality intestinal wormer given on schedule will reduce the risk of contracting hydatid tapeworm, as well as not feeding your pets sheep or kangaroo offal.

So, when should you worm your pet?

Puppies, and small dogs, are the most seriously affected when it comes to worms, as they have a small bodyweight and a small blood volume. So a dozen worms in a puppy will do much more damage than a dozen worms in an adult. For this reason, a strategic worming schedule is vital to the health of your pet, and family.

Puppies and kittens should be wormed every two weeks until 12 weeks of age (Hookworms, whipworms and roundworms hatch from an egg at 6 – 8 and 12 weeks respectively after infestation). After 12 weeks of age, you should worm your puppies and kittens every month until they are 6 months old, then every 3 months.

Adult dogs and cats can be treated every 3 months for intestinal worms.

Breeding bitches and queens need a varied schedule, to prevent worm eggs being passed on to young puppies and kittens. They require a dose prior to mating and 10 days before giving birth. Bitches may then be wormed from three months after the last dose, however queens will require worming 2 and 4 weeks after kittening.

Paralysis Ticks

Paralysis ticks are very dangerous parasites, which are especially prevalent in the spring-summer months, but can be present all year round. Adult paralysis ticks can vary in size, from unengorged at 4mm long to 14mm long in a fully engorged female. They are generally grey in colour, with yellow – brown legs. These ticks are the most dangerous of all Australian ticks, and can cause difficulty walking, respiratory difficulty, paralysis of the heart and laryngeal muscles, then death.

Prevention is available in the following forms:

  • Frontline Original, Spray or Plus – These must be applied every two weeks to be effective. This is the only tick prevention safe to use in cats.
  • Advantix – These must be applied every two weeks to be effective. This product must not be applied to cats, as it is toxic.
  • Preventic or Killtix collars – These collars are generally quite effective however are affected by environmental conditions. They must not be ingested, nor allowed to get wet. They are not to be worn by cats, as it is toxic to cats.