Parasite Prevention - Worms, Fleas & Heartworm

parasite

INTESTINAL WORMS

Worming is one of the first health care issues pet owners need to address as pups and kittens are the most susceptible in the first few months of their life. As their name suggests, intestinal worms are parasites that live inside your pet’s intestines. These worms range in size from small to surprisingly large (up to 18cm in length). Regardless of their size however, they all have negative, and potentially deadly effects.

Most species of animal, as well as humans, can be infected with intestinal worms including dogs, cats, rabbits, horses, fish, birds and reptiles.
Common intestinal worms in Australian pets are:

Roundworm, Tapeworm, Whipworm and 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 it can cause vomiting, diarrhoea and even anaemia (a low red blood cell level). Occasionally, heavy intestinal worm burdens can cause 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 controlling tapeworms.

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 for the various worm infections that occur in our pets. These are 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  good common sense tips to consider regarding worm prevention:
  • 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 – especially young children from playing where the soil may be contaminated with the motions of dogs or cats. Uncovered sand pits are or particular concern
  • Keep your pet's environment clean
  • Always dispose of dog faeces in public parks and playgrounds

Please call us to discuss an intestinal worming program for your pet.

HEARTWORM

Heartworm, or Dirofilaria immitis, is a parasite that is spread by mosquitoes, so your pet does not even need to be in contact with other pets to become infected!
Heartworm has a complicated life cycle.  Infected dogs have microfilaria, or baby heartworms that circulate in their bloodstream.  Microfilariae are sucked up by mosquitoes when feeding on the blood of infected dogs and undergo further development into a larval form inside the mosquito. A single bite from a carrier mosquito can infect your dog ( or more rarely your cat). As the worms mature in the heart they can cause a physical blockage as well as thickening of the heart and associated blood vessels.  In the early stages of infection there may be no visible signs, however, most infestations will eventually lead to respiratory problems, signs of heart failure (reluctance to exercise, lethargy, coughing) and even death.

Heartworm is present throughout most of Australia but is most prevalent in Northern areas and coastal parts. Heartworm disease is rare and getting rarer in Toowoomba

Thankfully, heartworm is very easy to prevent. It should form part of your routine pet health care program especially if you spend time with your dog in higher risk areas of Qld.  We have very effective preventative treatment options available including tablets, chews, spot-on's and even an annual injection for dogs administered by one of our vets.
If your pet has not been on heartworm prevention we strongly recommend a heartworm test prior to starting a prevention program, and possibly followed by a repeat test 6 months after commencing prevention.

Please call us to discuss the best heartworm prevention for your pet.

FLEA CONTROL

Fleas are most often seen during the warmer months but as we keep our homes nice and warm throughout winter, we can see flea problems all year round. Only a small part of the adult flea population actually lives on your pet. The fleas’ eggs and larvae live in the environment and the pupae stage of the lifecycle can survive for up to a year. This is why it is so important to not only treat your animal directly for fleas but also consider the level of flea contamination of the environment as well. Fleas can very effectively hatch from their cocoon and jump onto your pet to feed.
Dogs and cats can have a reaction to flea saliva resulting in a skin condition called Flea Allergy Dermatitis (or FAD). Treatment of FAD can be complicated and veterinary consultation is recommended.

Some signs that your pet may have fleas include:
  • Scratching, biting, rubbing and hair loss, especially at the base of the tail and rump
  • You may see fleas running through the coat (especially over the rump and in the groin region)
  • Flea dirt - It can be difficult to find the fleas, but is relatively easy to check for flea dirt.  Simply moisten a cotton ball, part your pet’s fur and place the cotton ball on the skin over the rump. If the cotton ball takes on black specs surrounded by a reddish area, this may be flea dirt and can indicate that your pet has fleas.

There are many and varied options available for addressing a flea problem and it is impossible to give a simple generic answer to which is the best.  Be warned: Some 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.

Please call us to discuss an appropriate flea control program for your pet.