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Fleas in the couch and carpet or even the bed, makes you want to itch at the thought. Flea bites and the itchy rash can last for weeks. We should also avoid the transmission of intestinal worms from our fur family to our human family.

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Parasites drain energy, compromise immunity, cause allergies and even death. Don't leave them unprotected

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Fleas and Flea Tapeworm in Dogs and Cats

Fleas are a very common parasite that can affect your pets. If not controlled, fleas can bite your pet’s skin and cause irritation, itching, over grooming and self-trauma. Some pets are also allergic to flea saliva, which results in severe skin irritation known as flea allergy dermatitis. Adult fleas can bite your pet up to 400 times a day and flea infestation can compromise your pet’s health and comfort. In severe infestations, it can even result in anaemia. Monthly protection is a critical part of eliminating their discomfort and supporting great health. 

Humans can also be impacted by fleas. Flea bites can cause an itch and rash in people that can last up to two weeks.  The thought of fleas being in the fur of your pet and dropping out in places such as pet beds, human beds, carpets, rugs, furniture and kennels, is enough to make you want to scratch right now!

Quick Flea Facts!

At maximal egg production, one female laying flea could results in 20000 fleas within just 60 days!

Fleas can jump more than 150 times their own height!

Fleas pupae can survive in their cocoons for up to a year, just waiting for your pet or yourself to come in contact with them!

Flea and Flea Tapeworm Lifecycle 

Controlling fleas with monthly protection, has the twofold benefit of helping to control fleas, as well as avoiding a type of tapeworm which is carried by fleas (Dipylidium caninum). 

Fleas: The flea lifecycle involves adult fleas laying eggs which fall into the environment (dirt, carpet, bedding, etc). A female flea can lay up to 30-50 eggs each day. The flea lifecycle can take between several weeks to several months depending on the environmental conditions. The eggs shed into the environment develop into larvae, pupae and then into adults which can jump onto an unsuspecting host. If there is no host available the larvae can stay resting in the cocoon until the flea is stimulated to hatch. Fleas can be stimulated to emerge by movement, heat, noise or carbon dioxide from either pets or people. This is why sometimes if you go away on holiday and come back into the house, there is a plague of fleas as they all hatch as you re-enter the house. As the larvae can be in the environment for many months, it is important to treat fleas all year round to prevent infestations. 

Flea Tapeworm: Dogs and cats can get flea tapeworms by grooming and swallowing a flea infected with a tapeworm egg/s. Once the flea is digested inside the dog or cat, the tapeworm eggs are free to develop into an adult tapeworm which then can live in the pet’s intestine. The adult tapeworm can grow up to 50cm in length. Humans, particularly children who may not wash their hands as well as adults, can also be infected with this tapeworm. By controlling fleas on our pets, we can stop the flea tapeworm lifecycle. 

Prevention and Treatment of Fleas, including Flea Tapeworm.

The best protocol to prevent flea problems, or to treat an existing flea issue on your pet or in your home, is to treat all pets at the house with monthly flea control products. This should be continued all year round as flea larvae can sit in the environment and emerge months later. Reducing the fleas in the environment can also be achieved by vacuuming all areas well, especially where the pets spend most of their time. It is also worthwhile to wash their bedding in a hot wash weekly for 4 weeks. 

Pet Lovers Club delivers complete personalised parasite protection directly to your door every month, making the product choice easy, ensuring you never forget and most importantly optimising the health and lifespan of your much loved pets.

By Dr Lydia Matheson BVSc
Pet Lovers Club Vet

Paralysis Ticks and Brown Dog Ticks in Dogs and Cats

Ticks of different varieties are found throughout Australia. The most common types of ticks are the paralysis tick, bush tick, cattle tick and the brown dog tick.  The tick that poses the greatest threat to the health of our pets is the paralysis tick (Ixodes holocyclus). Each year thousands of dogs and cats are hospitalised with paralysis due to this tick. Despite treatment, the outcome may be fatal if the tick is found too late or if the signs have progressed to causing paralysis of breathing and swallowing. Puppies, kittens and smaller breeds are particularly susceptible.  

Ticks can also carry other diseases which can affect domesticated animals and occasionally humans. In 2020, ticks within parts of Australia were detected to carry Ehrlichiosis canis, a bacteria which can cause disease in both pets and people. 

Where are paralysis ticks found in Australia?  

Paralysis ticks are found along the east coast of Australia. They can target dogs and cats, as well as native wildlife such as bandicoots, possums and koalas. Scientists believe that there are increasing numbers of ticks due to global warming and the growing bandicoot population in recent years. Outdoor dogs and cats that interact with wildlife or have access to coastal or inland bushy or grassy areas are more likely to be impacted.

In Western Australia, ornate kangaroo ticks and brown ticks are quite common and in South Australia, brown dog ticks can be found. Although these ticks are not as harmful as paralysis ticks, infestations of ticks are uncomfortable and blood borne bacteria can be transmitted, so prevention is recommended. 

Paralysis tick - impact on dog and cat health

Paralysis occurs when a paralysis ticks attaches to a dog or cat and feeds on the pet’s blood, injecting saliva into the pet at the same time. The saliva contains a toxin that interferes with the neuromuscular junctions of the pet, resulting in weakness and paralysis.  Common signs of tick paralysis include a wobbly gait, weakness, vomiting or retching, a change in pitch in the meow or bark, difficulty breathing and collapse. If any of these symptoms are observed, seek veterinary attention immediately.

Upon careful investigation, a vet may observe one or more ticks attached to your pet. If the tick is no longer present, they may find an inflamed crater-like area left by it.  Paralysis ticks can attach anywhere, but can be hidden deep inside your pet’s ears, near the anus or in between the toes. A vet may need to clip your pet to try to find an attached tick. 

Prevention, Treatment and Management of Paralysis Ticks 

Routine monthly protection in the form of a chew for dogs or topical spot on for cats is the recommended treatment for tick prevention. Appropriately selected products have active ingredients that treat, control and kill paralysis and other types of ticks. 

In addition to tick prevention treatments, it is a good idea to check for ticks after walks in the bush, especially during the warmer months. Particular areas to search and pay attention to are the folds of the neck, underneath the collar, between the toes, as well as behind and in the ears.

Preventing ticks and the clinical signs associated with tick paralysis is much safer and more cost effective than managing the treatment, which requires removal of the tick, administration of antiserum as well as supportive care. This may involve intravenous fluids, hospitalisation and even oxygen therapy.  Some cases of paralysis are too severely affected to respond to treatment and the outcome can be fatal

Pet Lovers Club delivers complete personalised parasite protection directly to your door every month, making the product choice easy, ensuring you never forget and most importantly optimising the health and lifespan of your much loved pets.

By Dr Lydia Matheson BVSc
Pet Lovers Club Vet 

Heartworm Disease in Dogs and Cats

Heartworm can be a significant cause of disease in dogs and less commonly in cats. The transmission of heartworm differs to intestinal worms, as our pets are infected with heartworm after being bitten by a mosquito carrying heartworm larvae. This means that even pets who spend a lot of time indoors, or do not necessarily even meet other animals, can still be infected. In Australia, it is recommended to use heartworm prevention products all year round as it is impossible to reliably predict when the “mosquito season” might start and finish.  

Heartworm in Cats 

Heartworm disease in cats is different from heartworm disease in dogs. If a cat is infected with larvae from a mosquito bite, their immune response towards the larvae usually results in the larvae being killed and not developing into adult heartworm. The symptoms seen in an infected cat result from the immune response against the larvae in the lungs and can included asthma like breathing, coughing and vomiting.  Diagnosis can be more involved than the simple blood test used in dogs, and may require chest x-rays or ultrasound of the heart. Treatment of heartworm disease in cats poses many challenges and risks, therefore monthly prevention if the best method to avoid heartworm infection in your cat.

Where is heartworm in Australia?

Heartworm is most often found in areas with a warm climate and large mosquito numbers. It is often found in tropical and subtropical areas of Australia, however in recent decades heartworm has become increasingly prevalent in the more southern states as well. Studies of wild fox populations have been conducted and found that around 7-9% of foxes in the Melbourne and Sydney surrounds carry heartworm, acting as a possible source of infection for domestic dogs and cats. 

How do pet become infected with heartworm?

When a mosquito bites an animal that has heartworm, they ingest the pet’s blood, and can also ingest microscopic heartworm larvae known as microfilariae which are circulating in the blood. These microfilariae then develop further inside the mosquito and then migrate to the mouth parts of the mosquito, where they can be deposited into another pet at another feed/bite by the infected mosquito. This larval stage of the heartworm migrates through the animal's tissues and over a period of around 6 months, they develop into a mature adult (up to 20-30cm long) which lives in the heart chambers and major blood vessels of the infected pet. The adult worms mate, and the female produces millions of microfilariae to circulate in the peripheral blood to renew the lifecycle.

Symptoms of heartworm disease 

Infection can occur at any age, but it is rarely diagnosed in a dog less than 1 year of age because the larvae take up to 7 months to mature following initial infection by mosquito bite.

The worms predominantly affect the lungs and heart, which is why a mild persistent cough, exercise intolerance and tiredness are often the early signs. Later in the disease, pets can develop heart failure which can cause severe coughing, increased thirst, fluid in the abdomen, difficulty breathing, collapse or even sudden death.

Vets are able to diagnose heartworm disease using an appropriate combination of physical examination, blood tests, x-rays and ultrasound.  If a dog is confirmed to have heartworm, medical treatment is required. In severely affected patients, there is a greater risk of complications associated with treatment. Rarely surgery may be required to remove adult worms.

Preventing heartworm disease. 

Prevention is much better than the cure and infection with heartworm is quite simple to prevent. 

Heartworm preventatives are effective and low cost, when compared to treatment and diagnosis. Dogs should start heartworm prevention from three months of age, or in some cases earlier. 

Many vets now also recommend using heartworm prevention in cats living in high risk area, despite their lower likelihood of serious disease from heartworms. The medication used to treat heartworm infections in dogs cannot be used in cats, so prevention is the only means of protecting cats from the effects of heartworm disease.

Note that “All wormers” often refer to treatment of intestinal worms only, and many products sold for treatment of intestinal worms do not prevent heartworm. 

Pet Lovers Club delivers complete personalised parasite protection directly to your door every month, making the product choice easy, ensuring you never forget and most importantly optimising the health and lifespan of your much loved pets.

By Dr Lydia Matheson BVSc
Pet Lovers Club Vet

Intestinal Worms, including Flea Tapeworm in Dogs and Cats

Intestinal worms are a group of internal parasites that can cause your dog or cat serious discomfort and compromise their health.  They are commonly found in dogs and cats in Australia and can also pose a risk to yourself and your family if not managed appropriately. Humans can be affected by intestinal worms if they accidentally swallow eggs which have been shed in the environment. Children are particularly susceptible to this, as they are often not as careful with handwashing and hygiene. People can also become infected with hookworm by walking barefoot in soil that contains hookworm larvae, which can result in intense itching. 

Types of Intestinal Worms 

The main types of intestinal worms that infect dogs and cats are roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, and whipworm. Each of these four types of worms vary in appearance. Adult roundworms are long, white and look like spaghetti, while tapeworms are segmented worms that live in the small intestine of infected pets. We are often unaware of our pets being infected with intestinal worms as the eggs that are shed in the faeces are microscopic. Occasionally tapeworm segments may be seen in the pet’s faeces, or around the anus, resembling tiny crawling rice grains. 

Pets can be infected by intestinal worms in several ways. This may be by ingesting eggs that have been shed in the environment or through the consumption of tapeworm cysts in raw meat. In some cases, secondary hosts such as rodents, lizards or even flea larvae ingest the eggs and pets are infected by eating the secondary host. Hookworms can also infect their host by penetrating through the skin. This can occur if a dog or cat walks on soil containing hookworm. Puppies and kittens are particularly susceptible to worms as puppies can be infected in utero and both puppies and kittens can be infected through the milk.

Symptoms of intestinal worm infestations

Some adult dogs or cats will show no external symptoms of intestinal worm infestations, but others, particularly puppies and kittens, can be more severely affected and can even die from heavy burdens. Symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhoea, lethargy and poor coat condition. Young animals may also be slow to grow and can display a potbellied appearance.  

Prevention of intestinal worms, including flea tapeworm

Regular treatment from a young age, with products that control all of the relevant intestinal worms, will ensure your pet and your family are protected 365 days per year. We recommend intestinal worming against all intestinal worms (roundworm, hookworm, whipworm and tapeworm) at least every three months. There are a variety of options available for worming your pets, including oral tablets and chews or topical treatments.  

Pet Lovers Club delivers complete personalised parasite protection directly to your door every month, making the product choice easy, ensuring you never forget and most importantly optimising the health and lifespan of your much loved pets.

By Dr Lydia Matheson BVSc
Pet Lovers Club Vet

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