Parasites are a common problem for pets, and with so many different parasites to protect against, owners may wonder if parasite control is really that important. To help you decide, we will discuss the most significant parasites and how they may affect the health of your pet, or even yourself.

 

Why do I need to protect my pet against parasites?

Parasites are unpleasant for both pets and owners to deal with. However, this is just one of the many important reasons for why you should keep your pet protected against them.

  • Many parasites are distressing and uncomfortable for your pet, and they may cause signs of illness as a result of their presence. Pets may even require veterinary treatment to help them recover.
  • Certain parasites carry diseases, which can be transmitted to your pet when the parasite feeds on them. Often these diseases can affect your pet’s long-term health.
  • Some parasites can also pass disease to people that they may feed on. This can be detrimental to a person’s long-term health if appropriate treatment is not provided.
  • Some parasites are themselves zoonotic, so they can also infect people, which often results in illness.

 

Which parasites do I need to protect my pet against?

 

Ticks

Ticks are becoming an increasing problem for our pets, especially in our area, where they are commonly found on grassed areas, woodland, and heathland. Dogs are the most likely pet to be bitten by a tick, as they can easily pick them up on their walks, but cats, other pets, and people are also at risk.

Although it is possible for ticks to be found all year round, they are most active between spring and autumn. Unfed ticks will attach to your pet to feed, where they can remain for up to 12 days before dropping off. Ticks can range in size from 1mm to 1cm, so small unfed ticks can be extremely difficult to detect.

The greatest risk from being bitten by a tick is that, if they are infected, they are able to transmit severe disease to the animal or person that they are feeding from. Lyme disease is the most common tick transmitted disease seen in Scotland, and if left untreated, Lyme disease can cause serious chronic disease in both people and dogs. There are also increasing numbers of other tick-transmitted diseases, including Babesiosis and Ehrlichiosis infection starting to be diagnosed in the UK, so watch out as these infections are spreading northwards.

Any ticks that you find attached to your pet need to be safely removed, so you should contact our veterinary team for advice if you are unsure of how to do this. If a tick is not correctly removed then the head may be left under the skin, which can result in an infection. The best way to protect your pet from ticks and any disease that they may carry is to ensure your pet’s parasite control treatment covers ticks, and is used at the recommended intervals.

 

Fleas

Fleas are a common parasite that can cause problems for many of our pets including dogs, cats, and even rabbits. They are irritating and itchy, and any pet affected by fleas will commonly cause themselves painful skin injuries as a result of scratching. In young puppies and kittens, they can even suck enough blood to cause anaemia. Some pets with Flea Allergic Dermatitis are particularly sensitive to flea saliva, so if bitten they will develop a severe skin reaction. Regular preventative flea treatment is particularly important for sensitive pets to protect them from developing skin issues.

While fleas cannot live on people, they can bite and cause itchy skin lesions, which are unpleasant. However, fleas can also carry the bacteria Bartonella, which can cause infection in cats and people who come into contact with infected flea faeces. This disease is often referred to as Cat Scratch Disease, as people can also contract Bartonella through a scratch from an infected cat.

 

Mites

There are a number of different mites that may affect your pet. The mites Sarcopes and Demodex are the ones most commonly known, which can go on to cause severe skin lesions in dogs, but there are other mites that cause skin issues and ear problems in cats, rabbits and other pets. Along with causing itchy and distressing skin problems, mites can also be difficult and frustrating to treat.

Certain mites, such as Sarcoptes, can also be zoonotic and pass to humans, where they can go on to cause unpleasant skin lesions, so if you develop any unusual skin signs and are worried about mites, you should contact your doctor.

 

Worms

There are many different types of worms that can infect our pets, including the most commonly known: Roundworms and Tapeworm. Usually these worms will not cause severe disease in healthy adult pets, but they can lead to weight loss, itchy bottoms, and sometimes vomiting or diarrhoea. However, some are zoonotic and can be transmitted to people and children, where they can cause severe disease if they migrate into the liver, brain or eyeball. Regular treatment of pets helps to keep people – especially young children – safe.

Lungworm is a parasite that all dog owners should be aware of, as it can be fatal. Often, dogs infected with Lungworm will only show vague signs of illness, so owners may not be aware that their dog is infected until serious disease has developed, by which point infection may prove fatal. This means that it is important to provide your dog with preventative Lungworm treatment all year round.

 

How can I protect my pet against parasites?

There are a number of different parasite control products that can be used to protect your pet. However, not all parasites will be prevented by one product, meaning that often a combination of treatments are required for complete parasite protection. For many parasite treatments there is also a choice between tablets, spot-on treatments and medicated collars, so there is sure to be a product that is suitable for your pet.

It is also important that parasite treatments are only given to the pet that they have been prescribed for, as certain products can be fatal to some dogs, and to cats and rabbits if the wrong medication is given. If you are unsure which parasite control products are best for your pet, speak to one of our veterinary team for advice.