FLEAS and TICKS
Ask your pharmacist!
There are two types of worms that mainly affect cats and dogs in the UK. It’s not always easy to know if a cat or dog is infected with worms, particularly in the early stages. However, if severely infected, your dog or cat may suffer from vomiting or diarrhoea, and will probably lose weight and condition.
Roundworm infections are often symptom-less in the adult dog or cat, but cause severe problems in young animals. Heavy roundworm infections may cause a distended stomach and ‘pot-bellied’ appearance – particularly noticeable in puppies and kittens. As the larvae migrate through the puppy, pneumonia and coughing may be seen. Animals may fail to put on weight and severe infestations may be fatal.
Tapeworm infection does not usually cause visible disease in the dog or cat. The life cycle of these worms is more complicated in that they spend some time in another species of animal (the intermediate host) before being passed on to the dog or cat. The intermediate host varies with the type of tapeworm and may include fleas and lice, mice or rabbits, sheep and cattle.
Risk to human health
The roundworms, Toxocara cani and Toxocara cati that affect dogs and cats may infect people, and children are particularly at risk from toxocariasis. Toxocara eggs are passed in the faeces of infected dogs and cats. Depending on climatic condition, these eggs usually become infectious to other animals after about 2 to 4 weeks. Therefore, freshly passed faeces are not considered a risk if promptly cleared away. People, particularly children, become infected by accidentally swallowing the eggs either from the ground or from under fingernails which should be kept short. The eggs hatch and the larvae travel through the body and, in some cases, reach the eye, potentially causing damage to sight.
Tapeworms that infect dogs, e.g. Echinococcus granulosus may also cause serious disease in humans. Echinmococcus may be spread to sheep and hence
humans if dogs foul grazing land. Dogs in farming areas may need to be wormed
more frequently than the usual recommendation of four times a year.
Toxoplasmosisin people can be caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii found in cats and sheep. This parasite is a minute single cell organism. Generally, it causes no visible disease in cats but may cause abortions in pregnant women and sheep. Pregnant women should avoid handling cat litter or going into lambing sheds. A rigorous hygiene routine including changing cat litter trays daily, always washing hands before eating, and wearing gloves when cleaning cat litter trays or digging the garden should avoid infection in people. Garden produce such as lettuce, to be eaten without cooking, should be thoroughly washed before use.
Treatment and routine prophylactic control of worms
Young animals are most vulnerable to roundworm infection; pups may become infected before they are born, and pups and kittens may become infected through their mothers milk. Therefore it is advisable to worm a bitch before mating, during pregnancy and until after whelping. The exact treatment course will depend on the product used. Advice should be sought from your pharmacist or veterinarian before worming a pregnant animal.
Pups and kittens may be wormed every fortnight from about 4 until 12 weeks of age, then every 3- 6 months depending on the product chosen. Adult dogs and cats appear to be resistant to roundworms and routine dog wormer every 3 months is recommended as a control measure. Doses are dependent on the weight of the animal and the type of wormer (anthelmintic).
Suitable products for routine worming include:
“Drontal Plus”,“Drontal Plus XL”,“Drontal Cat XL”,“Drontal Cat”, the“Panacur”, range and
Most dogs are not fussy eaters, and will readily swallow a tablet with their regular meal, or it can be placed in a favourite treat. Cats may be a little more difficult!
Any treatment for tapeworm, should include flea control.“Drontal Plus”,“DrontalPlus XL”,“Drontal Cat”,“Drontal Cat XL”,“Droncit”,andare examples of tapeworm treatments effective against both Echinococcus and Dipylidium as well as other tapeworms and roundworms
There are separate products for cats and dogs and they should only be used in the species stated
If your dog ‘scoots’ along on its bottom it may be a sign of blocked anal glands so you should consult your vet if the condition persists after worming.
FLEAS and TICKS
Fleas are one of the most common parasites caught by pet cats and dogs. Indeed, it's thought that every cat and dog will suffer an infestation at some point in its life. People may also be bitten by fleas if there is a heavy infestation. Additionally, fleas are the intermediate host for Dipylidium sp. tapeworms.
The two main species of fleas found in the UK are the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis) and the dog flea (Ctenocephalides canis). More than one species of flea may be present on an animal. The cat flea is the most
common and is able to breed on both dogs and cats. Traditionally the flea season lasted from April to November, but central heating and carpets enable fleas to breed all year round. Flea eggs are laid, hatch, develop into larvae and then pupate. Temperature and humidity conditions determine the time it takes for the pupae to develop into immature fleas. They may remain dormant until optimal conditions are met, for example, when an empty, cold house is re-inhabited and heated. To become mature, fleas require a meal of blood, after which they lay eggs and the breeding cycle starts again.
Ticks are small, blood-sucking mites. Normally they feed on blood from larger animals, like deer, but they may also attach themselves to pets and humans too.
They sit on tall grass and trees, waiting for a possible 'host' to walk by. Ticks are associated with Lyme Disease in humans the symptoms of which include swollen and painful joints.
Treatment and control
Flea Treatment involves a two stage process – removal from the pet and even more importantly removal from the environment. Over 95% of all fleas are found in pets’ bedding and soft furnishings. Some of the pet products are
formulated as a treatment to be applied to the back of the neck in accordance with the manufacturers’ directions. They are very easy to use, (e.g.Frontline Flea Drops,Advantage Flea Drops andHyperdrug Flea and TickDrops
NB The “prescription only” flea drop“Advantage”isNOTeffective against ticks
For maximum effect the coat should be parted and the product applied directly to the skin. The flea drops protect by spreading throughout the coat .However bathing or severe wettingmayreduce adherence and effectiveness and the
manufacturers, directions should be followed at all times.
Flea collars are convenient to use but it is important to watch for the possibility of an allergic reaction to the impregnated chemicals. Choose an elasticated collar for cats!
Control of fleas in the environment will require regular vacuuming of carpets as well as applying a suitable long acting insecticide around skirting boards. Products to stop fleas producing viable eggs or to kill the fleas before they produce eggs are also available. These include“Indorex”,“Zodiac”,“Acclaim”and“Staykill”
Contact your local environment health department in cases of extreme infestation.
Remember that 80% of fleas infesting dogs can be cat fleas, so flea control in your cat (if you have one) is also very important. Cat fleas carry the larvae of Dipylidium tapeworms and infect both cats and dogs when they are swallowed during grooming. An pet that has had fleas needs effective tape worm treatment with“Drontal”or
As with wormers there are separate products for cats and dogs and they should only be used in the species stated and the manufacturers’ directions should be followed at all times.
This article is based on one produced by the Veterinary Pharmacists Group of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, 1 Lambeth High Street, London SE1 7JN February 2007 with corrections and amendments by Hyperdrug Pharmaceuticals Ltd the home of the Canine Chemists
Words in italics eg“Indorex”are trade marks