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Pet parasites: Fleas, Worms, Mites and Ticks

There are many different parasites which can affect your furry friend!

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Fleas, Ticks, Mites and Worms

At Vets4Pets, we believe in keeping your pets happy and healthy! As part of your preventative healthcare routine for your loved one, we recommend regular parasite protection from your vet.

Preventative health plans 

There are many different types of parasites which can affect your furry friend but to keep it simple we want to give you the basics on the most common ones!

In general, parasites can be divided into two categories:

Ectoparasites
Found on the coat or skin of your pet. These include fleas, ticks, lice, mites and flystrike.

Endoparasites

Those which live inside your pet. These include tapeworm, lungworm and roundworm.

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Fleas (dogs and cats)

Adult fleas are tiny dark brown, wingless insects which can jump up to 165 times their own length and are easily spread by contact from one animal to another.
    

In order to survive and breed, fleas need to feed on the blood of our pets. They cling onto fur with their claws and bite the skin with a needle-like mouth. For young puppies and kittens, this blood loss can cause anaemia which is potentially life-threatening. In adult dogs and cats (and humans!) the main problem is the flea bite, which leads to irritation and skin allergy problems. 
   

A single flea can lay up to 50 eggs a day and these fall into the environment such as your pet’s bedding or the carpet. These larvae then develop into adults that will jump onto your pet where they will bite, feed and so the cycle continues.
    

How to stop the itch

The best way to check for fleas is to check for “flea dirt” which are brown/black specks seen in your pet’s coat (‘flea dirt’ is really dried specks of blood extracted by the flea). Comb through your pet’s coat onto a wet piece of kitchen roll or paper. If the specks turn red/brown, then you know your pet has fleas. Don’t wait for your pet to itch or scratch before thinking about flea treatment. At Vets4Pets, our vets can prescribe effective treatments that when used regularly, will prevent flea infestation. Request an appointment.

Ticks (dogs and cats)

Ticks attach themselves to our pets in order to feed, causing irritation and discomfort. They have highly developed mouths which allow them to pierce a hole through the skin and feed on blood.

It is important to check your pet regularly for ticks. Aside from causing discomfort while they are attached, ticks can also transmit diseases such as Lyme disease and Babesia canis. If your pet does have a tick, do not remove it with tweezers as it’s very easy to leave the head behind!


Preventative treatments are available to stop ticks causing your pet to become irritated. Contact your local Vets4Pets for more information.


Flystrike (rabbits only)

Flystrike occurs when certain types of fly lay their eggs onto a rabbit, which then hatch into maggots that eat the rabbit’s flesh. It can be fatal. The flies are particularly attracted to wet or dirty fur, especially around a rabbit’s bottom, so the number one way to guard against this life-threatening condition is to make sure your rabbit is keeping itself clean.

    

How to prevent flystrike

  • Daily checks

A quick check over your rabbit each day will help you make sure your pet is keeping itself clean. Diarrhoea or soft stools can lead to dirty fur, so look out for a soiled back end. If you spot any maggots contact Vets4Pets for urgent advice.
        

  • Don’t over-feed

If your rabbit gets too tubby, it won’t be able to clean itself easily and that can create the conditions that the problem flies are looking for. Feeding with grass or hay, supplemented by small amounts of veg is best. If you choose a commercial rabbit food too, make sure it is nuggets and pellets (not muesli) and doesn’t exceed 10% of your pet’s diet.


  • Keeping things clean

Guard against flystrike by keeping your rabbit and its environment clean. Make sure your rabbit’s hutch is cleaned regularly, and provide plenty of good quality absorbent bedding to avoid the collection of excess moisture. Every week, empty their hutch and give it a good going over with suitable disinfectant before providing new, clean bedding.

Lungworm (dogs only)

Lungworm is a parasite that can cause serious health problems in dogs and can even be fatal if left untreated. As an adult worm, it lives in the heart and blood vessels that supply the lungs.


Dogs catch lungworm through eating slugs and snails which carry the larvae of the parasite and it can even be spread through the slug or snail slime. While most dogs do not routinely eat slugs and snails for pleasure, they may do so by accident e.g. when drinking from a puddle, licking grass or generally just having a sniff around. On the other hand, some dogs do enjoy munching on these garden pests and although not every snail or slug carries the parasite, if your pet regularly eats snails/slugs then there is a risk of them picking up lungworm at some point. 


Signs of Lungworm

Signs can be varied, but can include; coughing, tiring easily, weight loss, poor appetite, vomiting, diarrhoea, excessive bleeding from minor wounds, seizures and even death.


What can I do to protect my dog from lungworm?

Once diagnosed and treated, most dogs can make a full recovery but the key to successful treatment is taking action early. The best way to avoid your pet getting lungworm in the first place is to speak with your vet about preventative solutions. Our vets can prescribe spot-on or tablet treatment. By treating regularly, you can prevent your dog from getting an established lungworm infection.

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TAPEWORM

Roundworms (dogs and cats)

Roundworms are large white worms, with cylindrical bodies.

The adult roundworm lives in the 
small intestine and feeds on the gut contents. Dogs and cats of any age can get roundworms but they are most likely to have roundworms when they are very young. Worms are often passed from a mother to her puppies or kittens before birth or shortly after, through her milk. They can also be spread between animals by ingestion of worm eggs from the faeces of an infected animal or by ingesting an intermediate host – such as rodents or birds.


Does my pet have roundworm?

There are often no visible signs of roundworm, however, a pot belly, poor growth, diarrhoea or poor coat could be indicators.

Regular worming is the best way to protect your pet 
against roundworm, our vets can prescribe a tablet or spot-on treatment.

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tapeworm

Tapeworms (dogs and cats)

Tapeworms look like long, flat ribbons and can

be up to half a metre in length. Adult tapeworms

live in the small intestine and once mature release

segments containing eggs.


Dogs and cats contract tapeworm by ingesting an infected intermediate host. Fleas are one of the intermediate hosts for the most common tapeworm of dogs and cats, so even indoor cats could become infected by ingesting fleas.


Does my pet have tapeworm?

Tapeworm infections are usually diagnosed by finding segments (that may look like grains of rice or seeds) on the rear end of your pet or in your pet’s faeces. It is common however for pets not to show any outward signs. 


Tapeworm segments in your pet’s faeces can cause irritation 
resulting in them licking their back end excessively and they may ‘scoot’ across the ground. Signs such as vomiting or diarrhoea can also occur. A variety of products are available to treat and prevent tapeworm. Some animals may need tapeworm treatment more often if they frequently hunt or scavenge. For the best advice on the type of de-worming preparation most suitable for your pet,

please speak to your local Vets4Pets vet!

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ear mites

Ear Mites (dogs, cats and rabbits)

There are several types of mites that can live in your pet’s ear, but the most common are Otodectes cynotis - tiny, eight-legged parasites that feed on the wax and oils within the ear canal. They are highly contagious and constant re-infestation can be a problem. Ear mites do not burrow into the skin but live on the surface of the outer ear canal causing irritation.

Does my pet have ear mites?

Ear mites are commonly seen at a young age in puppies and kittens. Your pet may carry ear mites without showing any signs, however, excessive scratching and rubbing of ears, head shaking, a black or brown waxy secretion with a strong smell are all indicators that something might be wrong. Treatment for ear mites is case dependent. There are medications that our vets will prescribe that can be applied directly in the ear, or parasite medications that are applied to the skin. Certain types of bacterial infections can mimic the signs of ear mites so it’s best to get your pet checked by the vet if you suspect something is wrong.

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Biting Lice

Biting Lice (dogs and cats)

Lice are small wingless insects that spend their entire lives on their host. Unlike fleas and ticks, lice do not travel or exist in the environment and are caught through direct contact with a louse infested animal. Sharing grooming tools can also transport lice from one pet to another.

Does my pet have lice?

The most common sign of a louse infection is a scruffy, dry coat. Lice lay eggs (termed nits) on the hair shafts. The lice themselves may be difficult to find, however, nits can be seen with the naked eye. Itching and hair loss is common and in severe infestations, anaemia may occur. If you suspect your pet has lice don’t worry - treatment is available! Speak to your local Vets4Pets practice.


Preventative health plans:

Flea and Worm Pack





Flea and Worm Pack offers:

  • 12 months’ flea and worm protection
  • Vet prescribed treatments tailored to your pet
  • Annual vet health check
Not only does the Flea and Worm Pack give you the reassurance of knowing you are providing the best possible care for your pet, it also helps save you money on annual parasite prevention costs. 


Prices start from £9 per month for dogs and £8 per month for cats.

Read more 

Complete Care health plan





Complete Care offers: 

  • 1x vet consultation
  • Annual vaccination incl. health check with your vet**
  • Kennel Cough Vaccination
  • Year round prevention of fleas and worms 
Plan perks:

  • 10% off neutering
  • 10% off dental procedure
  • £5 off consultation 
  • 10% off in-house laboratory work
  • Wellness test for only £30 
  • Microchip for only £10
  • Free nail clip
  • 10% off Seresto collar
  • 10% off Adaptil
  • Free nurse consult for weight/diet

Prices start from £12 per month for dogs and £10 per month for cats.

Read more

Other health plans





Health plans are designed to make preventative health care more affordable. Depending on which health plan you choose, you’ll save money on things like annual vaccinations, flea and worm treatment and routine health check-ups. 


More health plans