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All animals are at risk from parasitic infections, some more serious and dangerous than others. Keeping parasites at bay is an important part of pet ownership.
When we think about parasites and our pets, fleas, ticks and worms spring immediately to mind.
Other parasites include lice, the “Walking Dandruff” mite Cheyletiella, mites causing different types of mange, ear mites, and the dreaded “Berry Bugs” that appear towards the end of summer, causing intense itching.
As global temperatures change, and pets travel further afield with their owners, the repertoire of parasites seen in veterinary practice in Scotland is likely to increase dramatically over the coming years.
Some parasitic infections are more obvious than others to diagnose. For example, a dog or cat with a heavy flea infestation is relatively easy to diagnose. Other infections by internal parasites or microscopic parasites in the ear or on the skin, are not quite so easy and may need further tests to confirm.
There is a plethora of products available on the market these days for prevention and treatment of the common, and some not-so common, parasites that may infect our pets.
There are so many choices that vets, and pet owners alike, sometimes feel overwhelmed by the options!
It is important to remember some important points when thinking about which products to choose to protect your pet from parasites:
What suits one animal may not be suitable, or safe, for another.
At Lomond Hills Veterinary Clinic, we strongly believe that parasite control should be tailor made for the INDIVIDUAL pet, its life-stage, its lifestyle, its health status and the product's ease of administration and safety.
By buying from a veterinary practice, not only are you able to purchase products not available over-the-counter, you are able to speak to trained veterinary staff who are legally able to advise and sell these products.
Veterinary Surgeons and Veterinary Nurses have advanced training in parasitology, pharmacology and medicine to advise fully on your pet's needs. The other advantage of course, is that they know you and your pet, so are able to advise on the best products for your individual requirements.
It is imperative to have a confident working knowledge of parasitology AND pharmacology, to be able to make informed decisions on which products are best to use.
EVERY flea/tick/worm product sold by Veterinary Surgeons has information available on what it contains, how the product works, the safety data AND the back up and support of the manufacturer in case of any adverse reactions.
It is important to know which stages of the life-cycle of an individual parasite any given product is effective against.
Pharmaceutical companies producing such products have to prove ever-increasing safety and efficacy requirements before they can be licenced for sale.
We would never recommend a product that we would not use on our own pets.
Regularly, we see patients with parasitic diseases that have been “treated” with pet shop, bargain shop and supermarket products.
Sadly, vets all over the country see reactions to these products and, in the case of cats, deaths through inadvertent use of products meant for dogs.
Often these products are sold at similar prices to veterinary products but without the trained advice a vet or Veterinary Nurse can offer. PLEASE ask for advice before spending money on products that don't work.
It is VERY important to remember that such companies are not obliged to prove safety or efficacy, as such products are not classed as pharmaceutical products.
Even more important, is the fact that there are absolutely NO scientific trials or data, from respected sources, to support that they are effective enough to warrant reliance on them. Additionally, many “natural” products can be toxic and cause serious health problems.
As the manufacturers are not regulated, we cannot be sure of ingredients or contamination issues.
There is no, or very little, trial data or information on how these products allegedly work against the different life-stages of individual parasites.
There is no safety data.
There are just far too many unknowns for us to be able to recommend these products.
A RELIABLE product, with scientific evidence that it works.
An easy to use product which does not need complicated dosing schedules.
A SAFE product, that has the back up and support of the manufacturer, who employs highly skilled scientists to develop and produce it.
In an ever-changing world, and the emergence of parasites such as Lungworm in dogs, cases of Babesiosis carried by a tick which was once incredibly rare in the UK, and travel of people and pets throughout Europe and beyond, we strongly believe that any parasite control should be robust and reliable.
We read the literature, we listen to clients' experiences, we speak to colleagues and specialists in the field.
We are confident that the current market offers enough safe, effective and easy to use products that we can find a parasitic control programme that will suit you and your pet.
Please ask for further advice
Roundworms are large tubular shaped white worms that live in the small intestine of dogs and cats.
Pets can become infected with roundworms via many routes; by eating infected eggs in the environment, via the placenta, via the mother's milk and from hunting.
Because roundworms feed on the contents of the small intestine, they can make pets ill, particularly in puppies and kittens.
There has been much publicity regarding roundworm larvae causing blindness in people. This is extremely rare but is a reminder to ALWAYS clean up after your dog! Just one dog poo can contain a MILLION roundworm eggs!! Regular worming is the only way to prevent infection and the only way to prevent children becoming infected.
Read more at www.itsajungle.co.uk/parasites/detail/roundworm
Tapeworms look like long, flat ribbons that are divided into segments.
These segments contain eggs and look like grains of rice - they can sometimes be seen in your dog or cat's poo or stuck to the fur around their bottom!
Adult tape worms live in the small intestine.
Dogs and cats can catch tapeworm either by hunting and scavenging or via grooming and eating fleas.
Hunting animals and animals living on farms may need more regular worming for tapeworms.
Dogs and cats infected by tapeworms may not show obvious clinical signs but they can cause irritation and tummy upsets.
Read more at www.itsajungle.co.uk/parasites/detail/tapeworm
Fleas are small wingless jumping insects that cause many problems every year.
Fleas will bite any animal to feed on their blood - this includes humans!
In animals with an allergy to flea saliva, flea bites can cause extreme itching and irritation.
In young or very small animals, flea infestations can cause anaemia due to blood loss.
Fleas can also spread blood borne viruses and bacterias such as Myxomatosis in rabbits.
Fleas also carry tapeworm so when your pet grooms and eats the fleas (yes, the do that!!) they also infect themselves with tapeworm. Really not very pleasant parasites to have around! To effectively deal with a flea infestation, it is important to fully understand the flea life cycle.
This is because only 5% of a household flea population is actually found on your pet at any one time! Most of the life stages are found in the environment, e.g. your carpet or settee! There are many excellent products available to treat fleas and the environment. Please contact the clinic for further advice and have a look on www.itsajungle.co.uk/parasites/detail/fleas
Lungworm (Angiostrongylus vasorum) are small slim worms found in the heart and arteries of dogs and foxes.
Lungworm in dogs has received a lot of media and veterinary interest in recent years. Initially, lungworm was thought to be confined to areas in Southern England and Wales but evidence has shown that it is now present in Scotland. Infection is caused via dogs eating infected slugs and snails. More dogs eat slugs and snails than people think!
Often it is accidental i.e. whilst eating grass, drinking from bowls outside etc, but some dogs actually do seem to like munching on them! Lungworm infection caused by this particular parasite can be fatal.
Symptoms in dogs can be vague which can hamper diagnosis but include coughing, breathlessness, weight loss, bleeding etc - these symptoms can be explained by many other illnesses so always contact us if you are worried!
Dogs can become infected by another lungworm called the Fox Lungworm which lives in the airways of dogs and foxes. This infection usually causes coughing and other breathing signs and is rarely fatal.
Another lungworm infecting cats exists but not much is understood about its importance or lifecycle. It is thought that cats become infected via eating small animals that have eaten slugs and snails.
These little pests belong to the same family as spiders, having 8 legs instead of 6.
They are extremely common in rural areas and are more common at certain times of the year.
In Fife, there are many ticks around and we often see them on pets from early Spring onwards.
Ticks wait on vegetation and long grass and attach to pets' coats as they walk past. Ticks really are very unpleasant parasites and can cause quite a few problems; they can cause pain and abscesses where they attach (particularly if removed incorrectly), they can cause anaemia if present in large numbers as they feed on blood and they can transmit some nasty infections including Lyme Disease. It is very important to consider tick control though the milder months, particularly if your pet spends a lot of time in vegetation.
If you holiday on the West Coast of Scotland in particular, we strongly advise you use tick preventative treatments before you go as this area has high tick numbers. For more information on ticks, give us a ring and have a look on www.itsajungle.co.uk/parasites/detail/ticks
Good pet ownership
Good pet ownership involves treating and controlling the various parasites our pets pick up.
Ideally, all pets should receive preventative treatments all year round but as Spring begins and the weather begins to warm up, parasitic infestations become much more common.
If you want further advice on worming your pet or flea and tick control, please contact the clinic. We will be glad to advise - different animals with different lifestyles often require different regimes.
And remember, if you are a member of our "Lifetime of Caring Healthcare Scheme" then you receive FREE worming/flea and tick treatment all year round for your dog or cat - click below.