Parasite Information

Heartworm

Heartworm,or Dirofilaria immitis, is a parasite that is spread by mosquitoes, so you pet does not even need to be in contact with other pets to become infected!

Heartworm has a complicated life cycle. Infected dogs have microfilaria, an immature form of heartworm, circulating in their bloodstream. Microfilariae are sucked up by mosquitoes when feeding on the blood of infected dogs. The immature parasite develops into a heartworm larva inside the mosquito, then a single bite from a carrier mosquito can infect your pet (dog or cat). As the worms mature in the heart they can cause a physical blockage as well as thickening of the heart and associated blood vessels. In the early stages of infection there may be no visible signs, however, infection may eventually lead to signs of heart failure (reluctance to exercise, lethargy, coughing) and even death. Heartworm is present throughout most of Australia (except Tasmania and arid areas).

Thankfully, heartworm is very easy to prevent and should form part of your pet health care routine. Prevention is available as a long acting injection which can be given alongside your dogs vaccinations. Dogs require this vaccination at 12 weeks old, 6 months and annually thereafter. There are also other treatment options available such as monthly tablets and a monthly liquid spot. If your pet has not been on heartworm prevention we strongly recommend a heartworm test prior to starting a prevention program, followed by a repeat test 6 months after commencing.

Intestinal Worms

Worming is one of the first health care issues pet owners need to address as pups and kittens are the most susceptible. As their name suggests, intestinal worms are parasites that live inside your pet’s intestines. These worms range in size from small to surprisingly large (up to 18cm in length). Regardless of their size however, they all have negative, and potentially deadly effects.

Common intestinal worms in Australian pets are:

  • Roundworm
  • Tapeworm
  • Whipworm
  • Hookworm

If your pet has a large number of worms they may find it difficult to maintain body condition and it can lose weight. In some cases it can cause vomiting, diarrhoea and even anaemia (a low red blood cell level). Occasionally, heavy intestinal worm burdens can cause death.

Worms sometimes have complex lifecycles which involve a period of existence and development outside your pet. Understanding the life cycle of a specific worm is important so that strategies for treatment and prevention can be designed and implemented. For instance, some tapeworms need to pass through fleas to complete their lifecycle, so flea prevention is an important method of controlling some types of tapeworms.

It is important to maintain a routine worming treatment for your pets, to reduce the incidence of infection and to reduce environmental contamination. There are many worming treatments available for the various worm infections that occur in our pets. These are available as tablets and spot-ons. Re-infection is a common problem, particularly in pets that are in contact with a heavily contaminated environment. Another very important reason to worm your pets is to protect your family; as children in particular can become infected with certain dog and cat worms.

Below are some tips to consider regarding worm prevention:

  • Promptly clean up pet faeces
  • Practice good hygiene, always encourage children to wash their hands regularly (especially after playing in dirt or sandpits, playing with pets or prior to eating)
  • Prevent children from playing where the soil may be contaminated
  • Keep your pet's environment clean
  • Always dispose of dog faeces in public parks and playgrounds

Fleas

Fleas can spread very quickly in any environment and can affect your dogs way of life and their health. One female flea can lay up to 50 eggs per day! With these numbers one small flea can become a big problem in a matter of days.

Prevention against fleas will not only give your pet relief but will also break the flea life cycle allowing the environment to become clear of fleas as well.

Long term treatment against fleas is recommended for your pet and this can be in a tablet or topical form. These are given to your pet monthly. Call our friendly staff today to find out about the best prevention for fleas for your pet.

 

Ticks

Ticks are an extremely serious problem in our area. They are carried by native animals, especially possums and bandicoots. Call our friendly staff today to find out about the best prevention for ticks for your pet.

Paralysis Tick

These ticks can cause paralysis and even death if they attach to your dog. Once attached, the tick sucks blood and secretes saliva that contains toxins, which are absorbed by the animal. These toxins affect the central nervous system of your dog, hence the paralysis of hind limbs etc.

The paralysis tick is most accurately identified by the position of its legs. They are seen along the first third of the body forming an arrow shape to the head.

Brown Dog Tick

These ticks do not cause paralysis. However, if your dog has lots of them they may suffer from anaemia. They also can be identified by the position of their legs - their legs run along the first three quarters of the body, not just positioned at the head area.