Parasite Control

Parasite Control

Fleas are seen in maximum numbers during the warmer months but as we keep our homes warm throughout winter, we do see fleas all year round. Only a small part of the adult flea population actually lives on your pet – they hop on for a feed, then hop off to lay eggs in the animals environment. Flea eggs and larvae can survive for up to a year, so it is important to not only treat your animal directly for adult fleas but also to use a product that manages environmental contamination as well. Washing your pets bedding using the hottest cycle and regularly vacuuming carpets and fabric furniture can help.

Most animals will be itchy and mildly uncomfortable when they pick up a few fleas, but a small number of dogs and cats can have a severe reaction to flea saliva resulting in a skin condition called Flea Allergy Dermatitis or FAD. Treatment of FAD can be complicated and veterinary advice is recommended.

In addition to causing skin irritation fleas can spread blood borne diseases – another reason we recommend using a good quality flea preventative product all year round.

Warning: Some non-veterinary brands of flea treatments for dogs are potentially lethal when applied to cats. Always seek veterinary advice about the best flea treatments for your pet.

The main tick of concern for pet owners is the Paralysis Tick (Ixodes holocyclus) as it can cause paralysis and death within 2-4 days of attachment. Whilst Paralysis Ticks occur naturally only in certain geographic areas (mainly along the coastal eastern seaboard of Australia, but also in East Gippsland) they can attach to pets who visit these areas. Ticks may also hitch a ride back with you or a neighbour in cars, rugs, towels or plants. Several isolated cases have been seen in Melbourne on dogs that have not travelled. At this stage there is no evidence that Paralyses Ticks are now breeding in metro Melbourne.

Early signs of Tick Paralysis include wobbly back legs and weakness. Treatment of tick paralysis includes searching for and removing all ticks. This may include clipping the fur and/or the use of medication to kill remaining ticks. Tick antiserum is administered to counteract the toxin and supportive care is provided during recovery. If travelling to high risk regions we recommend ensuring your pet is on a tick preventative medication (various medications can be purchased from us without need to see a veterinarian. Our nurses will be able to find the product to best suit you and your pets needs). However, no tick prevention is 100% effective and should always be used in combination with daily searches of your pet. Searching your pet shouldn’t cease once you return from tick-affected regions but should continue for at least 7 days after returning home. Use your fingers to feel over the entire body, especially under the collar, on the face and around the front of your pet. Don’t forget to check carefully between the toes, under the lips, in the ears and near the anus and genitals.

There are other species of ticks found in Victoria that do not cause paralysis – it is always best to call us for advice before trying to remove a tick from your pets body.

There are two broad categories of worms that may affect dogs and cats – intestinal worms and heartworm. Please see our Heartworm Prevention page for more information.

Worming is one of the first health care issues new pet owners need to address as puppies and kittens are the most susceptible to both infection and the effects of worms. As their name suggests, intestinal worms are parasites that live inside the intestinal tract. These worms range in size from being a few millimetres long  to up to 18cm in length. Regardless of their size they all have detrimental (and in extremely rare cases potentially life threatening) effects.

Most species of animal (including humans) can become infected with intestinal worms.
Common intestinal worms in Australian pets are:

  • Roundworm
  • Tapeworm
  • Whipworm
  • Hookworm

If your pet has a large number of worms it may find it difficult to maintain body condition and it can lose weight. In some cases worm infestation can cause vomiting, diarrhoea and even anaemia (a low red blood cell level). Occasionally, heavy intestinal worm burdens can lead to death.

Worms sometimes have complex lifecycles which involve a period of existence and development outside your pet. Understanding the life cycle of a specific worm is important so that strategies for treatment and prevention can be designed and implemented. For instance, some tapeworms need to pass through fleas to complete their lifecycle, so flea prevention is an important method of preventing tapeworm infection.

It is important to maintain a routine worming treatment for your pets, to reduce the incidence of infection and to reduce environmental contamination. There are many worming treatments available  as tablets, spot-ons, or pastes. Re-infection is a common problem, particularly in pets that are in contact with a heavily contaminated environment. Another very important reason to worm your pets is to protect your family as children in particular can become infected with certain dog and cat worms.

Below are some tips to improve the prevention of worm infection:

  • Promptly clean up pet faeces
  • Practice good hygiene – always encourage children to wash their hands regularly especially after playing in dirt or sandpits, playing with pets or prior to eating
  • Prevent children from playing in dirt where you know an animal regularly defecates
  • Use good flea prevention
  • Always clean up dog faeces in public parks and playgrounds promptly

Please call us to discuss the most appropriate intestinal worming program for your pet.