We don’t know about you, but the sheer thought of creepy crawlies residing on the skin and in the coats of our pets is enough to make us feel itchy. After all we share our lives and our homes with our companions, and who wants uninvited house guests such as ticks and fleas to join us too?

Not us, that’s for sure! It’s not uncommon for people to be bitten by fleas that have worked their way into a home environment, an outcome which is preferably avoided for obvious reasons. But these creatures create very real problems for our companion animals too. An itchy nuisance for sure, some animals are driven to distraction by ticks and fleas and the trouble doesn’t always even end there.

Many are allergic to flea saliva, and these pets come up in itchy sores resulting from flea bites. They will likely require veterinary attention and, where a secondary infection develops, could even need antibiotics. Not uncommonly, we as vets see extremely sad cases whereby young puppies and kittens are overrun with fleas. The burden can be so high that their little bodies can’t cope with the blood loss and they become anaemic, this can be life-threatening. You might also be surprised to know that fleas also carry the parasite tapeworm. The ways in which they can impact our pets’ health are numerous and varied!

Ticks too are unpleasant little critters, they carry diseases such as Lyme disease, a condition that can be debilitating, and the recovery from which, can be long and arduous.

So all in all it’s easy to see why a tick or flea infestation is best dealt with in a speedy and robust manner.  What’s more if we can prevent these things from occurring in the first place we’ll have even happier pets.  This is where parasite control product choice comes in, and why it is useful for pet owners to make an informed decision.  One of the biggest differences between what we as vets can offer compared to what can be bought ‘over the counter’ from other shops, is the legal category of flea and tick preparation.

There is a legal scale of drug categories, ranging from Prescription Only Medication-Veterinarian (POM-V), right the way down to those that are for General Sales (AVM-GSL). There are many reasons that a medication will be categorised as POM-V, and not least, the potency of the drug is taken into consideration. To relate it to human medicine, it is like being able to buy paracetamol from the supermarket versus requiring a doctor’s prescription for other pain-relieving drugs such as tramadol. Therefore when we talk about combating or preventing these parasites effectively, we as vets can provide you with the effective products and means to do so.

It is not only the quality of product that vets sell, our team can provide you with an abundance of useful information on the topic as well, from our receptionists to our vets, and of course our valued nurses in between. For example, our reception team will happily talk you through a number of additional things you can do to be rid of a flea infestation (from regular vacuuming to washing bedding), as well as how to avoid your pet picking up fleas and ticks in the first place. Our vets and nurses can examine your animal to identify abnormalities, ensure treatment choice is as relevant as possible and keep one eye on your pet’s general health too. They know which products can be used in conjunction with one another, and which mustn’t. All in all, they can help you use these products in as safe a manner as possible.

A responsible veterinary practice such as ours, will have policies on how often we like to see a patient before dispensing parasite treatments. All of these things add up to giving your pet the extra, expert attention that other, non-veterinary sellers of parasite control aren’t able to provide.

Despite the use of POM-V products being more strictly controlled, it doesn’t mean that shop-bought products can’t cause harm. One particular risk is that a frustrated owner might believe a product to be ineffective and therefore apply more product to their pet, or alternatively a second product as well. Sadly it is not uncommon to see animals (and in particular cats and young animals) poisoned with parasite products in this way.

Another example is when cats, who are highly sensitive to one common ingredient of canine flea products, permethrin, are treated with dog products. Cats and dogs are very different creatures, each having their differing sensitivities, and cats can be poisoned by permethrin. Signs of toxicity in this manner can include tremors, twitching and full blown seizures, and can result in fatality. These cases are heartbreaking to see, not least because these loving owners were only trying to keep their companion comfortable and free from parasites. This is once again where developing a good relationship with your vet will avoid unpleasant scenarios such as this playing out.

Remember, we are always here and happy to advise.