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Fleas & Worms

Our advice on Fleas & Worms

Flea Advice

Where do fleas come from?

It is rare for pets (and people) to pick up fleas from other pets directly. Adult fleas live on the skin of hairy animals and if they can possibly help it they do not jump off.

Pets get nearly all their fleas from the carpet, flooring and furniture of your home. They pick up a smaller number from grass especially in summer and autumn.

Why is that?

On pets, young adult fleas bite and suck blood. Then they socialise and soon after the female fleas lay eggs on the skin of your pet. However, the eggs do not remain on the skin but fall off in your house.

Each female flea lays many eggs. Since pets spend more time at home than anywhere else, home is where most flea eggs fall. The eggs hatch into larvae (like tiny caterpillars, about two millimetres long) After a period the larvae pupate in a cocoon and change into young adult fleas (just like butterflies!). The young fleas wait patiently on the carpet for something warm to walk by.

But there can't be fleas in my house – it's spotless and I vacuum every day!

Sadly, you're wrong. But the fleas won't be dusty! Vacuuming is helpful, but even high powered modern vacuums cannot be relied upon to extract flea larvae from deep in the pile of the carpet.

How long will fleas survive in my house?

In warm humid weather it takes 21 days for a flea egg to become a young adult.

In cooler conditions it can take many months.

Young adult fleas can conserve energy and remain dormant in carpet for many months. They become active when they feel the vibrations caused by nearby animals and people.

My pet is not itchy so he can't have fleas

Not true. If pets are not allergic they hardly feel a flea bite and do not become itchy. The same is true of humans. Individuals who are not allergic are not aware of the bites they receive as the sensation of a flea bite is tiny and they do not go on to develop an allergic reaction. People with flea allergy develop itchy spots after being bitten (typically about their ankles). This explains why fleas seem to prefer some individuals to others. In fact fleas are not fussy, but only allergic individuals know about it.

My cat is going bold but he/she is not scratching - it can't be fleas!

Well it might be. If cats have itchy skin (for whatever reason) they do not scratch much but they do groom excessively. So much so that hairs are broken and hair loss and sometimes sores result.

There are many causes of itching but allergy to flea bites is the commonest. When flea allergic cats groom excessively they are sometimes exceedingly efficient at removing fleas from their coats. Consequently it can be very difficult to find a flea on the coat of some allergic cats. They still remain itchy though as new fleas hop on them each day and get a few bites in before they are caught.

How can I successfully control fleas?

Two things are required:

  • A safe product to successfully control fleas in the home (The major source of fleas)
  • A safe product to kill fleas quickly on my pets which works for a reasonably long time.

Flea Treatment

The two types of flea treatment products

When it comes to flea treatment there are two sort of products avaliable to treat your pets - Prescription Drugs and Over the Counter Products. Below we have explained what these terms mean.

Prescription Drugs, by law, can only be dispensed by a Veterinary Surgeon to animals under his care. This does not mean that every time the drugs are dispensed the pet must be examined. However, the pet must have been examined by the vet within recent times (12 months) and must be known to be in a state of health which would not preclude the use of the particular drug. If your pet has not been examined in recent times, then it will be necessary to bring him in for an examination and a consultation fee will be incurred.

Over the Counter Products can be bought by anyone even if their pet is not under the care of the vet. Obviously it is important to follow the directions for the use of the product and advice should be sought if your pet is not in perfect health.

Controlling fleas in the home: two products are useful

Indorex: This is a safe and effective aerosol used to spray the house (not the pets). Two products are present in the spray.

  • First: an insecticide quickly kills hatched young adult fleas on the ground. It is biodegradable and is effective for about two months.
  • Second: a long acting non toxic insect hormone prevents flea larvae developing further. This remains effective for up to 12 months, so giving long term control.

In order to be effective it is necessary to spray the entire floor area of the home and all soft furniture. Beds need not and should not be sprayed. However beds and other furniture should be moved so that the floor underneath can be sprayed.

Enough aerosol should be used for the size of the premises. As a guide, one can is enough for a small terrace  house. Indorex can be bought over the counter by anyone.

Program: This is a prescription drug which is given to pets. It is avaliable as an oral liquid or injection for cats and as a tablet for dogs. The drug is an insect hormone and appears to have no effect on our pets. When fleas suck blood they do not die (it is not a poison) but their eggs become sterile. As a result, the home is no longer a source of fleas.

If there are fleas and flea eggs in the home when Program is started, then the home will not be free of fleas immediately. The existing population of eggs and larvae are not sterile and will continue to develop into fleas and will be available to jump on you and your pets for one to two months. After this time the home will become flea free, as eggs laid after Program fail to hatch.

If it is apparent that fleas are in the house when Program is first started then it is wise to spray the home with Indorex  in order to quickly reduce the flea burden.

Killing fleas on your pets

For advice on treatments for fleas, please contact the practice to speak to one of our staff.

Worms & Worming Advice

Roundworms

The common roundworms (Toxocara species) of pets are large: they can be seen easily by naked eye and resemble thin spaghetti in an off white or brown colour. The adult worms live in the intestines of pets and lay microscopic eggs which are passed in faeces and become spread on the earth over time. Eggs are not infective immediately, they must develop through larval stages on the ground. The infective eggs are sticky and become attached to the feet of animals and are ingested during grooming. Tiny larvae hatch in the intestine and burrow through the intestinal wall into the body of the animal.

Some travel through the liver into the lungs. After going through more larval stages, these are coughed up and swallowed. These worms are now young adults which live, feed and lay eggs in the intestine.

Some larvae travel in the bloodstream and end up in muscle tissue, where they become dormant.

Most travelling larvae cause a tiny amount of insignificant damage to the tissues they go through. However, if present in a sensitive tissue such as the brain or the eye, serious problems can result. (Partial or complete blindness or a degree of brain damage).

Adult worms in the intestine can cause illness in the form of diarrhoea and weight loss in puppies. Rarely, there are enough worms to completely obstruct the intestine. Disease in adult dogs is rare.

Puppies can become infected with worms from the bitch. Dormant 'sleeping' larvae in the tissues of a bitch become activated in late pregnancy. Some migrate through the womb and enter the puppies before birth, whereas others go to the mammary glands and infect the puppies through milk in the first days of feeding. Consequently, pups are exposed to large numbers of worms right at the beginning of their life, at a time when their immune system is not fully developed. Infected pups grow less well, are pot-bellied and are prone to diarrhoea.

Other Roundworms:

There are other species of roundworm which can also be found:

Lungworm: Can be a cause of coughing in dogs and cats.

Hookworm and Whipworm: Can be a cause of diarrhoea, marked weight loss and anaemia, especially in young dogs from kennels.

Heartworm: These worms are more common in warmer states of the USA, Australia and southern Europe. They may now be seen more commonly in the UK as more pets travel to these destinations. A variety or heartworms are seen occasionally in dogs in Britain, especially in Wales and West UK.


Treatment for Roundworms

We would advise treating pups from 2 weeks of age, every three weeks with Panacur, until 3 months of age.

For adult dogs we would advise treating with Panacur or Drontal Plus at six months of age and every 6 months thereafter. Monthly Spot-On treatments can also be used for roundworms.

Why do we recommend Panacur? When given daily for 3 days, Panacur kills buried larvae as well as adult roundworms. In addition, a 3-day Panacur course is effective against the protozoan parasite Giardia, which is a common cause of diarrhoea in pups. Panacur is not effective against Tapeworms.

Other ways to catch roundworms: If dog and cat roundworm larvae are eaten by small rodents, the larvae migrate in the tissues and become dormant. When these rodents are eaten by dogs or cats, the dormant larvae become active and complete their life in the intestine of the predator.

Protecting Your Family: Worms can be passed onto humans in the same way they are passed onto pets. It is important to do everything you can to protect your family from catching worms as each year, a small but significant number of humans, (mainly children) suffer blindness or brain damage caused by the Visceral Larva Migrans (the name given to larvae travelling in the body.) As mentioned, most travelling larvae cause little trouble but it is always best to do what you can to prevent infection. There are some very simple rules to follow to ensure you are doing all you can to protect your family:

  • 1) Worm all pets every three-six months.
  • 2) Pick up faeces in the garden daily and put down the drain or toilet.
  • 3) Ban dogs from play areas.
  • 4) Pick up faeces in parks.
  • 5) Wash hands and scrub children's nails after playing in the garden.

Tapeworms

All tapeworms live their life in two hosts: the end host and the intermediate host.

The common tapeworm of dogs and cats is Dipylidium Caninum.

Adult tapeworms live in the intestine of dogs and cats. They cause little or no disease. The worms are flat in cross section and are made up of a head, which attaches to the intestinal wall and the body, which is made up of segments. The segments are 'parcels' of eggs which creep out of the bottom of the dog or cat. They may be seen by the owner on the coat of the pet or where the pet has recently been sitting. Initially they are short, pale and motile. Then they dry out and appear like grains of rice.

Eggs end up on the floor, where they are eaten by flea larvae. When the flea is a young adult, it hops on a pet. If the pet is successful at grooming, it is eaten. Digestion of the flea releases a partly developed tapeworm, which completes its life in the intestine of the pet.

Other tapeworms: have different intermediate hosts. E.g. small rodents, raw sheep offal.

Treatment for Tapeworms

We advise treating for tapeworms every 3-6 months. If you are using a flea treatment all year round, treating every 6 months would be sufficient. The effective treatments available for tapeworms include: Drontal Plus, Drontal Cat andDroncit. Drontal and Droncit are tablet treatments which can be given in food.

The best way to control the tapeworm threat is via regular worming treatment and good flea control.

For any further information, please do not hesitate to contact the practice to speak to one of our staff.

Practice information

Beech House Vet Clinic

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