External and Internal Parasites

External and Internal Parasites

Flea Control

Fleas can be distressing for your pet, however they are more than just a nuisance. Fleas can cause skin disease and transmit infectious or parasitic diseases, some of which can be transmitted to humans too. In some dogs, fleas can also trigger an allergic condition called flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), a skin disease that is intensely itchy and can result in hair loss and skin infections. In dogs with FAD, even a small number of fleas can cause intense irritation, meaning year-round flea control is essential!

The most common way pets pick up fleas is from the environment. Fleas rarely jump from pet to pet. Pets can pick up fleas from a walk, playing in the dog park, at the beach or even in the backyard. 

Spotting fleas isn’t always easy – they are small and fast, and some dogs can show signs of severe itchiness and irritation when only a few fleas are present. The other thing to consider is that the adult fleas you see on your dog are only part of the problem. You may be surprised to learn that adult fleas (the ones you see) make up only about 5% of the total population. The remaining 95% (eggs, larvae and pupae) are found in carpets and bedding - in fact anywhere in your house! Each female flea can lay up to 50 eggs per day so it doesn’t take long for an infestation to take hold.

It is important to remember that fleas aren’t just a problem in the summer. Use flea control all-year-round. You, and your pet, will be happier for it.

Tick Control

The most common ticks infesting dogs in Australia are the paralysis tick, the brown dog tick, and the bush tick.

Paralysis ticks

The paralysis tick (Ixodesholocyclus) is one of the most dangerous parasites that can affect your pet. Tick paralysis is estimated to affect tens of thousands of dogs and cats per year in Australia, with many animals dying. The greatest risk is associated with high numbers of adult ticks in spring and summer, but disease can be seen throughout the year. Paralysis ticks are found on the east coast of Australia, from northern Queensland to Victoria.

How does the paralysis tick cause toxicity?

After the tick has attached to the host animal it sucks blood and then secretes a toxin that can cause severe illness, or even death, in cats and dogs. Dogs and cats of any age can be affected.

Signs of tick paralysis include: loss of coordination in the hind legs (wobbly or not being able to get up) which may progress to the front legs, change in bark, retching, coughing or vomiting, loss of appetite, or laboured or rapid breathing. Any of these signs may indicate the presence of a paralysis tick. If your dog shows any of these signs you should seek veterinary attention as soon as possible.

Tips for reducing the risk of tick paralysis include:

  • The year-round use of effective tick control products for all dogs and cats that are living in, or travelling to, known paralysis tick regions. Just remember no tick prevention is 100% effective.
  • Search your dog daily for ticks - although tick control products will greatly reduce the risk of tick paralysis, it only takes one tick to cause tick paralysis. For this reason, it is important to also perform daily tick searches on your pet.
  • Reduce exposure to ticks in the environment (e.g. clean up leaf litter and debris, minimise or restrict your pet’s access to bushy environments)
  • If you find a tick, remove it immediately, and seek veterinary attention

Brown dog ticks and bush ticks

Brown dog ticks and bush ticks do not cause tick paralysis, but they can cause skin irritation and also transmit other important diseases e.g. Babesia parasites which invade the red blood cells of dogs causing anaemia (which can be fatal).

Recently in Australia there has been the emergence of Ehrlichiosis which is a disease that effects dogs and is caused by a tick-borne bacteria called Ehrlichia canis. The brown dog tick which is present across northern Australia is the main carrier of this disease, and transmission only occurs through infected ticks. Infected dogs do not directly transmit the disease to other dogs.

We are more than happy to show you how to do a thorough tick search and recommend appropriate tick control products for your pet. Please call us to discuss.

Mites

Mites are small parasites that can live on, or in your pet’s skin.

Demodex

Demodex mites are actually a normal inhabitant of your dog’s skin. These mites live in the hair follicles of dogs and are passed from the mother to her pups during nursing. The dog’s immune system normally controls the number of mites, so that they cause no harm. Dogs can develop signs of disease if their immune system is unable to control the mite population. This most commonly occurs in young or malnourished dogs, or those with other diseases that compromise their immune system. Signs of disease due to Demodex mites include hair loss, thickening of the skin, and skin infections. Cats have their own species of Demodex, however signs of disease are much less common in cats compared to dogs.

Sarcoptes

Sarcoptes mites not only affect dogs, but can also be transmitted to humans. The mites easily pass from an infested dog to other dogs that are in close contact. Sarcoptes mites burrow into the skin, leading to intense itching, hair loss, and skin infections. Confirming a diagnosis of Sarcoptes mites can be difficult as the mites live within the skin. Your vet may need to examine a skin scraping under the microscope to identify the mites.

Ear mites

As their name suggests, ear mites inhabit the ear canals and surrounding skin. Ear mite infestations can occur in dogs and cats, but infestation is more common in cats. Signs of infestation typically include skin irritation; scratching around the ears, head and neck; head shaking; the presence of an ear discharge that is dark and waxy (resembling coffee grounds) and an unpleasant odour from the ears. Your vet can diagnose ear mites by looking at a sample from the ear canal under the microscope.

Please contact us to discuss options to protect your pet against mites.

Heartworm

Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease seen in all mainland states of Australia. Dogs are more susceptible to heartworm infestation than cats, and heartworm disease also tends to be more severe in dogs. Adult worms live within the heart and large blood vessels where they can grow to more than 30 cm in length. Heartworm larvae, more commonly called microfilariae, can also be found circulating in an infected dog’s blood.

How is heartworm in dogs spread?

Heartworms are transmitted from one dog to another by mosquitoes, which pick up the tiny microfilariae when they bite an infected dog. The microfilariae develop in the mosquito and are transmitted when the infected mosquito bites another dog. The heartworm larvae then migrate through the dog’s tissues and circulatory system, eventually reaching the heart and lungs where they grow into adult heartworms.

Why is heartworm disease dangerous?

Heartworm may cause no clinical signs in the early stages of infestation, but as the worms grow and mature, they can interfere with the normal circulation of blood. This can result in signs of heart failure, and in some cases may lead to sudden death.

Thankfully, heartworm is very easy to prevent and should form part of your pet health care routine.

If your pet has not been on heartworm prevention we strongly recommend you speak to us about a heartworm test prior to starting a prevention program.

Please call us to discuss the best heartworm prevention program for your pet.

Intestinal Worms

Intestinal worms are relatively common in many animal species including dogs, cats, rabbits, large animals, fish, reptiles and birds. Regular deworming is essential to ensure your pets remain healthy and to reduce the risk of some of these worms being transmitted to people.

Puppies and kittens are often the most susceptible to worm infestation. Intestinal worms are spread via dog faeces, so can be picked up anywhere from the backyard to the dog park. Puppies and kittens sometimes arrive at their new owner’s home with worms already present. In very young dogs, or if present in high numbers, intestinal worms can cause gastrointestinal disease, malnutrition and anaemia. Sometimes there may be no obvious signs that your dog has intestinal worms.

Important intestinal worms that can affect Australian dogs are:

Roundworm

Tapeworm

Whipworm

Hookworm

Frequent deworming will kill worms that are present but it is very easy for your pet to become reinfested and so it’s important to continue deworming your pet all year round. Some intestinal worm species can produce large numbers of eggs, for example roundworm can lay 200,000 eggs per day within five weeks of infestation. It’s important to maintain a regular deworming program for your pets to reduce eggs being shed into the environment. 

Can you get worms from your dog?

The short answer is yes, many worms infesting dogs are zoonotic, meaning they can be transmitted from animals to humans. Different worms cause different diseases and each have their own symptoms. Whilst anyone can become infected by intestinal worms, children and the immunocompromised are at greater risk. One of the most important ways to reduce human exposure is regular deworming of pets.

How to reduce the risk of human exposure to worms:

  •  Routine deworming for all pets in your household
  • Prompt disposal of pet faeces on a daily basis.
  • Ensure good hygiene, encourage children to wash their hands regularly (especially after playing in dirt or sandpits, playing with pets or prior to eating)
  • Prevent children from ingesting soil or pet faeces
  • Protect playgrounds, garden areas and cover sandpits
  • Always dispose of dog faeces in public parks and playgrounds
  • Prevent your pet from scavenging or hunting.
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