Protecting pets against fleas, ticks and worms

Time to read: 6 mins

Treating your pets against parasites

Parasites and treatment against them is a year round issue for pet owners, but particularly as the summer starts to heat up it’s important to be even more aware of their effect and how to manage them.

The most common parasites we need to protect our pets against in the UK are fleas, ticks and worms. Our team of qualified vet nurses have looked into each of these and how you can protect your cats and dogs from these pesky pests.

FACT: Dogs and cats of all ages are susceptible to parasites

Fleas

What are fleas?

Fleas are wingless bugs that are black or brown in colour with a hard shell. They tend not to grow to much bigger than 2 millimetres in size but for that they do pack a punch with their bite. They reproduce quickly so when you find one, there’ll likely be many more in tow.

When are they active?

It’s important to remember that fleas are active all year round. Typically they are slightly increased activity during the warmer months, however given the UK’s temperate climate they are certainly an ever-present danger and therefore treatment for fleas should be undertaken throughout the year.

Signs that your pet has fleas.

Given that fleas are flightless insects they jump from place to place. The indication that they are on your pets will be their bite, which causes small black dots that look like grit or soil. Whilst they might be difficult to see through your pet’s thick fur, typical signs that your pet is suffering with fleas are:.

  • Scratching, hair loss or bald patches
  • Areas of redness or irritation
  • Unexplained bites on yourself
  • Specks of flea dirt in the fur
  • Visible signs of small dark coloured insects in the fur

To be sure, you can perform a test on your pet to check.

If you can see the grit or soil that you suspect to be flea bites, then take a piece of damp cotton wool and dab the area. If the soil particles turn brown or red on the damp cotton wool then that is flea dirt. The presence of flea dirt will always mean your pet has or has had fleas.

How can I protect against fleas?

Because fleas move around by jumping, when thinking about how best to protect your pet also consider treating the environment they live in. Regularly wash your pets bedding, vacuum around their bed and under nearby furniture.

If your pet has fleas then there are a number of options on how to treat them including spot-on, sprays and collars, tablets and injections.

IMPORTANT: Never use a dog preparation on a cat and always use the right size treatment option for your pet – they are often worked out by the body weight of your pet.

Ticks

Did you know there are over twenty species of tick found in the UK?

What are ticks?

Ticks are arachnids, similar to spiders. They have 8 legs and vary in size from 1 -10 millimetres. They have tiny pinhead heads that bury under your pet’s skin leaving the grey/brown body part sticking out, they aim to suck blood and as they do this they grow in size.

When and where are they active?

Ticks live on trees, grass, shrubs, undergrowth and bracken. They attach to both humans and pets as you brush past where they are living, but they can also transmit from you to your pet and vice versa. As they can move between pet and owner it’s important that you check both yourself and your pet after being out.

Similar to fleas, ticks are around all year round however the season in UK normally peaks between March and June, and again between August and October.

Signs that your pet has ticks.

Ticks bury their heads into the skin, leaving their grey/brown bodies exposed. Unlike fleas where bites are itchy, it’s not always the case with ticks. They can be itchy for the pet but not always, so it’s not always something that your pet can alert you to. In cases where it does cause itching then there may be a red irritation on the skin. The easiest way to detect tick bites is by feel.

How can I protect against ticks?

It’s thought that the majority of infection transmission from ticks happens after it has been attached to your pet for 24 hours, so regularly and thoroughly checking your pet’s coat after being out is an essential part of tick control.

If you find a tick, then the best way to remove it is using a Tick Hook which is available online or from all pet shops. You need to ensure you remove the head part as well as the body.

It’s important to protect your pet against ticks because they can transmit Lyme Disease, Ehrlichiosis and Babesiosis so ensuring your pets parasite protection is up to date is vital. The use of preventative products which either kill or repel the ticks are beneficial in reducing the time a tick is able to feed on your pet, therefore reducing the risk of infection transmission.

Worms

What are worms?

Worms are parasites that live inside the body. They’re around 3 or centimetres long, white or brown and live inside, and off of, the pet’s intestine.  There are many different worms which can infect your dog or cat but the most common are Roundworms and Tapeworms.

How do they infect dogs and cats?

Worms are often contracted by pets from birth, passed on by the mother’s milk. They can also be caused by eating roundworm eggs found in other animal’s faeces, or when eating infected mice or other small animals.

There are different types of worms, tapeworms can be passed on to your pet by fleas, so regular flea control is an important part of managing tapeworms.

Lungworm is a potentially fatal parasite passed onto dogs by slugs and snails. Lungworm is more prevalent in some parts of the UK.  Dogs can become infected by drinking from puddles, playing with toys left out in the garden or through eating grass.  Lungworm can make your dog feel very unwell so it’s important to use preventive treatments to help protect them.

Worms are not just unpleasant for your dog or cat but some can spread to humans, and are potentially quite dangerous for children so ensuring your pet is given an effective wormer regularly is important for all members of the family.

Signs that your pet has worms.

Nearly all dogs will get worms during their lifetime so it’s a common problem. Similarly, the symptoms are not always obvious. Things to look about for include:

  • Worms appear in vomit or on their bottom
  • Weakness
  • Loss of weight despite a healthy appetite
  • Diarrhoea or vomiting
  • Bloated stomach
  • Signs of more serious Lungworm include coughing and bleeding.

Protecting against worms.

Worm infestations can begin from birth so it is important to carry on an effective deworming protocol throughout your pets life. At least once a month for puppies and kittens and every 3 months for adults.  The exact protocol will depend on the product used.

How we can help

If you need any extra advice on treatment for worms, ticks, fleas and other parasites then our Careline is available 24/7. Find out more and contact the pet advice line.

Find out more about our dog and cat insurance or to join us get a pet insurance quote.

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