Fleas are an everyday problem in cats and dogs but can also affect other pets; and if an infestation is left unchecked, it can lead to serious illness. Fleas live on the skin, causing irritation and allergies that will lead to scratching, sometimes to the point of tearing the skin. In addition, because fleas are parasites, they feed on the pet's blood; and if severely affected or left untreated, this can cause anaemia, particularly in young and old pets. Fleas are also an important part of the lifecycle of tapeworms; without them the worm cannot complete its lifecycle which is another good reason for catching and treating fleas as soon as possible. Fleas athleticism is remarkable, with a jumping ability exceeding 200 times their body length read more. This means they can and will land anywhere, which is why humans can be bitten too as fleas look to find their next furry host! "Prevention is better than cure’’ is the best advice we offer as it's much simpler and less troublesome to avoid an infestation than have to treat one! Our vets and nurses will gladly advise you on a monthly preventive treatment programme, which we tailor to your pet. Watch our how to video below on how to apply flea treatment to your pet: Although fleas live on pets, they can lay their eggs in and around the home and the eggs can remain dormant for up to 12 months. Moving into a vacant home, starting the central heating after summer and an increase in household activity can ‘wake up’ flea eggs and start an infestation; so our advice is to treat your home with a flea spray. Our team at The Pet Vet can advise which preventive and treatment sprays are the best to use and how regularly you need to use them.
Early signs your pet has fleas - and how to treat themFleas can be hard to spot as they are typically well hidden in an animal’s fur, so the early stages of an outbreak of fleas can be tough to recognise as pets may not show any typical signs of allergy or discomfort. It is more likely that you will see evidence of dark flecks on their fur and skin, which is flea poo! Top tip: Brushing your pet’s coat with a flea comb onto a wet piece of cotton wool, (paying particular attention to their lower back) will often show up flea poo. You can tell this apart from everyday dirt because it turns the water on the cotton wool red. This is from the blood in the flea poo. If your pet has an allergy to fleas or has many fleas biting them, they’re likely to:
- Scratch, chew or lick more than usual.
- Have red and inflamed skin.
- Make an appointment with The Pet Vet for advice and treatment.
- Make sure that you treat all of the pets in your household to ensure fleas don’t pass from one pet to another.
- Vacuum your home to get rid of any fleas in your furniture and carpets.
- Treat your home with a household flea spray to kill any remaining fleas and flea eggs.
How to prevent fleas
- Treat all the pets in your home regularly with a suitable flea treatment.
- Wash your pet's bedding regularly.
- Use a household flea spray regularly.
WormsWorms infestations can be distressing for you and your pet; the good news is that they are preventable. Regular worming treatment will help to protect your pet from worms. Roundworms in humans particularly children can even lead to blindness if left unchecked, the NHS advises regular worming of pets. Worms are parasites that live inside the body. There are many different types of worm that can affect dogs and cats and people!
- Roundworms: Young animals can be born with roundworms or get them from their mother’s milk. In puppies and kittens, a mild infestation of roundworms can cause a distended abdomen, low growth rate and occasional diarrhoea. Severe infestations can cause nutrient deficiency or life-threatening blockages of the intestines. Adults can simply pick up roundworms when they are out and about. In adult dogs and cats, severe cases can cause poor coat condition, vomiting and diarrhoea. It is not unusual to notice entire live worms in your pet’s sick or poo.
- Tapeworms: Adult tapeworms also live in the small intestine. They shed "segments" that are passed in poo. These look a bit like grains of rice and can sometimes be seen around the tail and the area around your pet's bottom. Pets with tapeworms often can be seen excessively licking or grooming their rear end. Some tapeworms can be passed on to your pet by fleas, so flea control is an essential part of preventing these worms.
- Lungworms: Lungworm is a potentially fatal parasite carried by slugs and snails. Dogs can become infected through eating slugs or snails, or by eating contaminated grass from snail trails. Lungworm can make dogs seriously unwell and, although they can recover from them with the right treatment, it's best to prevent them from getting infected. Cats can also get lungworm through eating infected birds, frogs, rodents or by drinking contaminated water.
Spotting the signsSigns that your dog may have worms include:
- Weight loss
- Change in appetite
- Itchy bottom
- Changes in behaviour such as low energy
- Breathing problems, coughing, tiring quickly or fainting.
- Bleeding problems such as bruising easily, blood blisters on the gums, pale gums, or nose bleeds.
PreventionWorms in dogs can be passed to other animals and their human friends, so you should take care to prevent them from building up in your pet's intestines by administering a monthly flea and worm treatment.
It is impossible to stop your pet from picking up worms altogether, but you can reduce the incidence by:
- Picking up your dog’s poo and disposing of cat litter daily.
- Regularly using a worm treatment.
- Thoroughly washing your hands after any contact.