Hurrah, it’s June! Which means the weather is (hopefully) warming up and summer is just around the corner! However, just as we enjoy the sunny conditions, so do the bugs and beasties that live on our pets. A little forethought and treatment now, can save a whole lot of trouble (and maybe some vets bills!) in the future.
These irritating little creatures are the ones everyone thinks about as the weather warms but here’s an interesting fact; actually the worst time of year for fleas is the Autumn. Then the few fleas our pets have picked up over the summer move into our centrally heated houses and have a party. However, what that means is by protecting our pets over the summer, we not only keep them from getting itchy bites now, we can stop a house infestation later!
It can be surprisingly difficult to know if an animal has fleas, especially cats who are good at grooming out all the evidence, but you need to look for small black flecks of flea dirt in the coat, small red raised bites on the skin, excessive scratching and, of course, the insects themselves. Rather than waiting for them to appear (especially as you will probably miss them anyway), treating against them preemptively is best. There are various ways of doing this including spot-ons, tablets, sprays, injections and collars. However, whichever you chose to use, make sure it comes from your vet, who will provide far more effective products (and better advice!) than pet shops.
The more common name for Scabies is ‘Fox Mange’ and certainly most dogs (it is very rare in cats) who contract it are often those who enjoy rolling in fox poo (why DO they do that?!) or poking their heads down fox holes. The Scabies mite is a burrowing kind; it digs through the skin causing a great deal damage. The most commonly affected body areas are the head, ears, limbs and groin, where the skin will lose the hair, be very red and inflamed, is often extremely scabby and always very itchy. It is easily treated, and prevented, using veterinary spot-on medications.
Although these little blighters are most active in the Spring and Autumn, if the weather remains warm but wet (which pretty much describes our summers!), they can survive longer. When they are attached, ticks look like small, grey beans stuck onto the skin. They remain in place for a few days and get larger over this time as they gorge themselves on our pet’s blood. Left untreated they will eventually drop off but while they are biting they can infect animals with some nasty diseases, are unsightly and can leave the skin very sore. There are spot-ons which kill ticks but usually the best way to remove them is manually. Tick pullers are cheap and easy to use, your vet can give you a demonstration!
Regularly worming your pets all year round is important, especially if you have young children, but it is particularly vital in the warmer months. This is for several reasons; firstly, many of the worms that infect our pets are passed from prey animals, so hunters (and it is mainly cats but some dogs are very good rabbiters!) are more vulnerable when prey numbers are higher. Secondly, worm eggs (which are microscopic & are passed in faeces in their millions) can survive in soil for a long time and although most pets get out and about all year round, most inevitably spend more time outside, and more time snuffling though flowerbeds and undergrowth, in the summer.
Like fleas it can be very difficult to know if a pet has worms. Many people know about signs like itchy bottoms & bloated tummies but, in fact, most infestations are symptom free, another reason why regular treatment is vital. There are spot-ons, tablets and liquids available and, again, your vet is the best source for advice on which kind to pick.
I hope I haven’t made your skin crawl too much thinking about all these little blighters! Just remember, prevention is always better than cure and the best people to ask for advice on what is best for your pets is always your vet!
Cat Henstridge BVSc MRCVS – Read more of her blogs at www.catthevet.com
If you have any worries about your pet, please make an appointment with your vet, or try our Symptom Guide.