What are fleas?
Fleas are small insects with big back legs. They jump from animal to animal, using their host’s blood as a meal. In order to eat, the flea pierces their mouthpart through the skin and injects their saliva which stops your pet's blood from clotting very well, preventing a scab from forming. They can do the exact same thing to us humans too. Whatever your species, this is very itchy and irritating.
What are worms?
The worms we worry about live in different organs and tissues within the body. Different worms have different life cycles and can migrate between different organs.
Both fleas and worms are VERY common in pets. They can cause (potentially fatal) diseases. Prevention is key.
What effect can fleas and worms have on our pets?
Both fleas and worms have a negative impact on the welfare of our pets.
Fleas are itchy and make your pet feel uncomfortable. This can lead to skin conditions, anxiety and changes in behaviour. Fleas can transmit multiple diseases too (e.g. myxomatosis in rabbits, Bartonella hensellae to people and Feline Infectious Anaemia in cats, and tapeworms in both dogs and cats); some of these can be fatal.
Worms living within your pets’ body are also dangerous. Not only do they eat your pet’s food from inside their intestine, but some also suck blood directly. They can also have chronic (long lasting) effects on the tissues, as many worms migrate through the body, creating holes, which then heal with much thicker scar tissue affecting the ability of the organ to function. Some worms can grow extremely long and may even form blockages in the intestine.
Both fleas and worms cause many secondary problems, such as flea allergy dermatitis, poor weight and poor coat.
What are the symptoms?
Both fleas and worms will cause irritation.
Flea-infested pets may show: agitation, itching, licking their bodies, weight loss and changes in behaviour. The itching may lead to scratches, self trauma and injury, and even become infected.
If your pet has worms, they may show an altered feeding pattern, a lack of energy, pale gums, dehydration. They may appear pot-bellied and could be rapidly losing weight. You may have seen your pet licking around his or her bottom area more frequently too (this is because tapeworm segments are really itchy!).
Can humans catch the diseases associated with fleas and worms?
Humans can be bitten by fleas and can contract many of the diseases they carry too.
Most worms that infect our pets cannot survive inside the human body, but unfortunately some can. These worms can still very easily make both you and your pet very ill. Children are at particularly high risk and can contract dangerous worms from pet faeces. In severe cases, these can cause liver disease, blindness and brain damage as the worms crawl through the child’s body.
Why do we have to treat them so regularly?
Different products provide cover for different lengths of time. Whilst worms and fleas are often seasonal, they can cause infection at any point in the year, so in order to prevent infection, year-round treatment is required.
Do I still need to treat my pet for fleas and worms if they have never suffered from them before?
Yes, any pet can become infected with fleas or worms so it’s always important to maintain an effective preventative healthcare programme.
Prevention is better than trying to treat the infection or secondary disease. It is much cheaper to prevent disease too.
When can I start treating my pet for fleas and worms?
Fleas – there are many different types of product including flea collars, spot ons, sprays and tablets. Before 8 weeks, your puppy should be spending minimal time outdoors meaning they are not likely to get bitten by a flea. Different treatments have different minimum age requirements. If you are unsure which method you should choose, speak to us about it. We have spot-ons, tablets and collars and can help you decide what is best for your lifestyle and your pet.
Worms – again, there are many different products which can be used. These normally need to be administered monthly but this depends on the pet and the types of worms you are trying to prevent. Worming treatment normally starts very young (around 2 weeks old, as dogs and cats become infected directly from their mothers) and follows a timely protocol throughout the rest of their life.
If you are struggling to worm your pet or provide flea treatment, please contact us as we are more than happy to help. It is vital this procedure takes place in order to prevent these common pests from infecting our furry friends.