Most fleas seen on pets are cat fleas. These will even be found on rabbits living in houses where there is a cat flea population.
Cat fleas spend most of their lives OFF the animals, in carpets etc. Treating just the pets will only remove the problem if flea breeding is prevented and death of the fleas is the best method.click here to close
Cat fleas and dog fleas run and jump actively. Rabbit fleas can often be found on cats which catch wild rabbits. These rabbit fleas are usually found around the edges of the ears and usually stick in one place. They will not set up a breeding population in a house without rabbits.click here to close
In dogs, this usually manifests as an itchy area of hair loss along the back starting from the tail end. In cats it may occur as scabby spots especially along the spine, or as bald areas especially on the backs of the legs and the abdomen. The allergic animal will often have few live fleas; other non-itchy animals in the house are less active in grooming off the fleas.click here to close
Ticks are arachnids, related to spiders. Males are small and rarely seen: female adults grow to about the size of a large baked bean. They attach to the skin by means of hooked jaws and live on blood.
Most commonly ticks come from hedgehogs, but sheep and deer ticks are common on moorland. The greatest concern is that they can carry infections, the most serious of which is Lyme disease.
Removing ticks needs to be done carefully to avoid breaking off the hooks. If parts of the tick are left in the skin, they will cause small, painful abscesses.click here to close
There are many ideas for removing a tick: burning its bottom with a cigarette, smearing with vaseline to suffocate it, soaking it in alcohol for example.
The main problem is to get the tick off in one piece. This is very difficult if the tick is dead. There are special plastic gadgets called 'tick hooks' for the job. If your pet is particularly at risk, your vet can probably supply one.click here to close
Lice are relatively rare except on feral animals and occasionally on farm reared puppies. Unlike human headlice, they are easy to kill and as they spend their whole lives on the animal, there is no problem with populations building up in carpets.click here to close
There are several sorts of mites seen on dogs and cats. The most specialised are earmites. These are commoner in cats, but cause more problems in dogs and, if rabbits get earmites, the ears can become very badly diseased.
There are 2 types of mange mites of dogs: Demodex and Sarcoptes. The first causes hair loss and thickened skin, the latter, severe itching.
Cats rarely get mange mites (Notoedres) but if they do the skin disease can become life-threatening.
Dogs, cats and, most commonly, rabbits get a mite called Cheyletiella. This lives on the skin surface and causes itching in some individuals.click here to close
Angiostrongylus vasorum adults live in the right side of the heart of dogs and foxes. The adult females lay eggs which travel in the blood to the lungs where they hatch and the larvae burrow into the airspaces (alveoli) and move into the airways from where they are coughed up, swallowed and passed out in the faeces. Slugs feed on the faeces and the larvae mature in the slug. Foxes, and sometimes dogs, eat slugs and this is how they become infected.
The presence of the worms in the heart leads to chronic ill-health, but the worms can sometimes get into the kidneys or brain causing acute disease. There is also a significant increase in the risk of bleeding in infected dogs. This is particularly a problem in dogs having operations. Continuous prevention of infection is therefore advisable if teh parasite is in the area.click here to close
Toxacara canis, the common dog roundworm, like several other roundworms, takes 1 month to develop from a newly eaten egg to a mature adult in the intestine laying eggs. For this reason, monthly worming would be a good idea. With Advocate, worming is continuous. Historically, worming of dogs every 6 months used to be advised, then every 3 months: both of these were compromises and monthly worming is necessary for effective prevention. For detailed information about the risks of roundworms Click here.click here to close
The normal life cycle of the worm starts when an egg is swallowed by a host. The egg hatches in the stomach and the larva burrows through the stomach wall into a blood vessel. It is carried in the blood until it reaches a suitable place to rest, usually muscle. Here it stays as a little cyst. If the host's intestine is cleared of worms many of these resting larvae re-enter the blood and travel to the lungs where they burrow through to the airways and are coughed up and swallowed. They mature in the intestine where they live and breed, laying eggs which are passed in the faeces.
If the host becomes pregnant, the larvae travel in the blood stream to the uterus where they migrate into the pups/kittens. This ensures that most puppies and kittens are infested at birth. Breeding animals should be wormed regularly, as should all young puppies and kittens. For detailed information about the risks of roundworms Click here.click here to close
The normal life cycle of the tapeworm is somewhat complicated. Segments passed by infected 'primary' hosts contain eggs. These are in the environment, on grass etc, and are eaten accidentally by the 'secondary' hosts, which are specific to each tapeworm (the common cat tapeworms' secondary hosts are mice and rabbits - but not birds). In the secondary host the egg hatches and the larval tapeworm burrows into the blood stream and travels to its favoured site (muscles and liver are common places) where it forms a cyst. When the secondary host is eaten by a primary host, the cyst bursts and the larva matures to an adult tapeworm which attaches itself to the wall of the intestine and grows. When it is mature, segments are continually formed and shed into the faeces.click here to close
Two type of dog tapeworm, which are, fortunately, not common in most parts of the UK, produce huge cysts, called hydatids. These can occur in humans, but the main secondary host is the sheep. It is very important that any dogs which might have ANY access to dead sheep should be treated regularly for this tapeworm (Echinococcus) as removing the cysts from human livers is extremely dangerous.click here to close
There are two common sorts of parasites found on or in our pets: external and internal. We now advise the use of a product which treats both external and internal parasites at the same time.
The product is called Advocate and is a spot-on to be applied to the animal's skin every month. As far as fleas are concerned this is not much different to the product we used before. The major difference from other worming products is that the drug remains in the animal continuously, killing adult and later stage larvae of roundworms non-stop. Other wormers, tablets etc, pass throught the animal and kill worms present but then disappear. Because of the life-cycle of round worms and the risk to humans from roundworm larvae it is much better to provide continuous control.
The other main reason we have changed our policy is the spread of a worm called Angiostrongylus from the continent into the UK. This has now been reported in County Durham and pets in the south of England have died from haemorrhage as a result of this worm. Advocate kills the later stage larvae and the adults.
Fleas are extremely common and once a population is established in a home they can take a lot of effort to eliminate. Modern insecticides are highly effective and I favour the ones which are applied to the skin and which remain on the surface so that fleas will come into contact with them before they can bite the pet. Most of the problem caused by fleas is due to an allergic reaction by the pet to the flea's saliva. Preventing biting by the fleas is therefore important. My view is that insecticides and other flea control treatments which are absorbed into the pet's bloodstream are not satisfactory.
Other less common external parasites are ticks (which are like grey/cream baked beans attached to the skin) lice which are smaller and difficult to see and mites which are almost microscopic. Some flea treatments will also protect against these other parasites.
Rabbits commonly develop very scurfy areas especially over the shoulders. This problem is caused by mites living on the skin surface. There are a number of ways to deal with them. Fleas occur on rabbits: in house rabbits, cat (and human!) fleas are found. A flea killing product called Advantage is now licensed to use on rabbits, but it is important NOT to use other dog or cat flea preparations on rabbits. We often use a flea repellent called Xenex to prevent and control skin parasites on rabbits and smaller rodents.
Another very distressing problem affecting rabbits in hot weather is fly-strike. Particularly developing if the rabbit's bottom becomes damp, dirty and smelly, this is an infectation of fly maggots which will eat into the rabbit's skin and internal organs (if left long enough). This can be fatal. There are several products available to prevent fly-strike: Xenex is one we always have available.Go to top of page
Intestinal worms are also very common in dogs and cats. The most worrying are roundworms. It has been known for a long time that dog roundworms pose a risk to human health, but recent experiments suggest that cat roundworms can too. The risk is that the larvae hatching from worm eggs accidentally swallowed by humans (especially children) can get into the eye or brain and cause damage. It is therefore important to worm dogs and cats every 3 months with an effective drug to kill roundworms. Tapeworms are fairly rare in dogs, but are very common in hunting cats as they are caught by eating mice or rabbits. Regular worming of hunters will clear any which have been caught.
For more information about worms visit the site of the manufacturers of one of the products we use.
Other intestinal parasites are rare in dogs and cats, but Coccidia are a common cause of disease and sometimes death in rabbits, particularly young ones. The protozoal parasites invade cells lining the intestine and multiply. The oocysts (shown in the photomicrograph on the left) which are shed in huge numbers in the faeces will reinfect the rabbit in waves which tend to get bigger every few days. It is therefore essential to remove all droppings from a rabbits cage every day to break the cycle.Go to top of page