External parasites are a widespread problem seen by vets all year round. However, flea and ticks are particularly common in spring and summer.
The springtime makes me think of sun, sand and a slew of parasites! Don’t get me wrong. Yes, ticks, fleas and worms are active all year round. But hot, humid weather can bring parasites out in full force.
As such, it’s an ideal time to remind pet owners of the importance of parasite prevention.
Taking parasite prevention seriously
It would seem that Aussie pet owners don’t think parasite prevention is necessary. How so? Because, according to a Petbarn survey, only approximately 31% of pet owners regularly purchase parasite prevention products.
This is an extremely low percentage, considering parasite prevention is an essential part of owning a pet.
Dr Veronica Monaghan, Chief Veterinary Officer at Greencross Vets, says, “Pets often get a parasite at some point in their life. In fact, it’s probably less common to for a pet to live their whole life without ever coming in contact with a parasite.
“Common parasites that pets may have include fleas or worms, while some other parasites are more common during the spring season, such as ticks or ear mites.
“Vets can provide annual parasite check-ups to help accurately diagnose and safely treat parasites.
“However, make sure your clients are aware that it can take several days before symptoms appear after a parasite has come in contact with a pet.”
A key part of parasite prevention is performing regular checks. This way, owners can treat any parasites before the symptoms get too serious.
The danger of parasites
As all professionals know, parasite prevention is a critical part of pet ownership and needs to be the responsibility of all pet parents. If left untreated, fleas, ticks and worms can pose a serious risk to a pet’s health.
Yet many pet owners may not be aware of the dangers of parasites. Dr Monaghan explains, “Parasites can cause life-threatening conditions to pets if left untreated. If that isn’t enough cause for concern, some parasites can even infect and transmit diseases to humans, especially vulnerable people such as infants and the elderly.
“It’s important to know just how dangerous parasites can be for us and our pets so that we can take the right preventative measures.”
Pet professionals can play an important role in passing on this information in encouraging clients to regularly check their pet for fleas and ticks.
Urge pet owners to take action if they notice any change in their pet’s behaviour or health.
Indeed, if a pet does come into contact with fleas or a tick sooner or later it will likely display physical symptoms.
Symptoms of parasites
“Some of the things that pet owners can look out for are significant changes in behaviour, such as “scooting”, weight loss, change in appetite or water consumption, or panting,” says Dr Monaghan.
Some of the symptoms pet owners can look out for include:
- Black specs, the size of poppy seeds, amongst the fur, suggesting fleas
- Red, itchy bites on a human’s wrists and ankles can indicate fleas
- Hair loss around the forehead, eyes, muzzle, and forepaws can be indicative of mites and lice
- Mites and lice can also cause a dog to incessantly scratch or shake.
Keeping pets parasite free
Even if a pet rarely leaves the backyard, they can still contract parasites. Educate owners on the fact that parasites have been known to hitch a ride on a human and sneakily enter the home. In fact, parasites can even hide out in carpets, bedding and other items of furniture before jumping onto a passing pet.
To help keep pets parasite free suggest owners:
- Have their pet regularly checked for parasites by their vet
- Regularly treat their pet for parasites
- Clean their pet’s bedding regularly
- Ensure the dog’s coat, food and water dishes are washed often
- Know the symptoms
- Monitor behaviour
While parasites such as fleas and ticks thrive in hot humid weather, they’re a risk all year round. Educate clients on the importance of parasite prevention throughout the year.
There are a wide variety of parasite prevention products available. Pet professionals can discuss the different options (sprays, chews, tablets, collars). You can also help owners with a medication regimen they can adhere to.