Parasites and their control
South Bedfordshire and North Hertfordshire are not that different to the rest of the country but we do seem to be a hotspot for some parasites. Fleas, flies, ticks and worms are the most common offenders.
Fleas mainly affect cats and dogs, with mild winters we now see them all year round. If you see a flea on your pet it is advisable to treat all your pets and your house. The reason for this is that 95% of the flea life cycle is not on your pet but in the environment. Fleas only jump onto an animal to feed on their blood, once this is complete they start laying eggs which fall off anywhere the pet goes. A single fleas can lay up to 200 eggs per day will happily live on a pet for month on end if untreated. Eggs which fall off will go on to hatch into larvae which feed on hair and dander, these will then pupate in a hard chrysalis and can stay dormant for up to 2 years. This is why flea infestations can be really hard to get on top of so regular preventative treatment is recommended.
Ticks will feed off most warm blooded animals, dogs, cats, birds, rodents and even people. They live in long grass and tend to be most prevalent in spring and autumn. Ticks attach to their host by biting and burying their mouth parts, so careful removal is needed to stop infection at the site. Ticks can carry disease and as they suck blood they transfer infection to the host. once they have finished feeding, usually a few day later, they will drop off to continue their life cycle. Although locally we do not see much disease associated with tick bites there is a healthy population of ticks so treatment is recommended.
Worms affect many species causing mild to severe symptoms. The main worms we worry about in our pets are those which can make them unwell or infect us. For many years the dangers of roundworms (Toxocara) have been discussed with pet owners, a good quarterly treatment has helped to reduce the risk to both our pet and ultimately us. more recent work has shown that unless de-worming treatments are used monthly it is not possible to guarantee your dog or cat is not producing worm eggs in its poo. The rise of lungworm (angiostrongylus vasorum) which can kill dogs has made a huge difference to how often pet owners treat for worms.