West Melton Vet Centre
West Melton Vet Centre - Companion animal Vet Clinic for the community.
Parasites thrive in warm and humid conditions. As daily temperatures reach 20°C – 30°C and humidity levels increase beyond 50%, fleas and ticks become more active.
That means pet parasites are more active in the warmer spring, summer and autumn months. But they can be a problem during winter, too.
Some adult parasites, larvae and eggs can survive in freezing temperatures for extended periods. Others will make themselves at home in your indoor spaces, where it’s cosier than the outdoors.
Preventing fleas, ticks, worms and other parasites in your pet cat or dog is a year-round responsibility. A vet-recommended treatment and a good cleaning routine are the best ways to prevent parasites from making your pet unwell.
Fleas are very small, wingless, brown-coloured parasites that bite skin and suck blood to survive. They’re a bit like tiny vampires with incredible jumping abilities. Adult fleas only account for 5% of the population. The other 95% are eggs, larvae or pupae, and they live in bedding, carpet, soft furniture and floorboards.
As well as itchy skin and fleabites, if left untreated, fleas can give your pet major diseases, such as anaemia or Bartonellosis, that could be fatal.
Ticks are tiny and wingless, with harpoon-like mouthparts. They can’t jump like fleas, but they can walk, climb and fall. An adult tick saws the host’s skin before inserting its hypostome. Then it sucks out blood and secretes glue-like saliva, which helps the tick to hang on to its host.
Ticks are most likely to be found under your pet’s collar, inside ears, between toes or along the gum line. Tick bites can cause illnesses, diseases, paralysis, and in extreme cases, can be fatal to cats and dogs.
There are four common types of parasitic worms common in cats and dogs in New Zealand. These worms cause a range of illnesses and symptoms like loss of appetite, coughing, breathing issues, a swollen tummy, anaemia, vomiting and diarrhoea. Like other parasites, if left untreated, worms can be fatal to your pet.
The most common causes of parasite infection in cats and dogs are:
Prevention is the best protection against fleas, ticks, worms and other parasites.
Start treatment immediately if your pets show signs of being an all-you-can-eat buffet for munching fleas or parasites. If your pet is scratching a lot, is vomiting and/or has diarrhoea or is generally unwell, it’s always best to talk to your veterinarian as soon as possible.
There are many kinds of fleas. The types you’re most likely to find on your cat or dog are attracted to your pet’s fur. Pet fur is a great place for these little parasites to hide, feed and breed. Fleas don’t live on humans because we don’t have fur – there’s nowhere for them to hide. (Human hair doesn’t feel cosy to a flea).
Nevertheless, fleas can bite humans. They often bite on the feet, ankles and legs in three rows. It’s jokingly referred to as ‘breakfast, lunch and dinner. Flea bites irritate your skin and can become infected, potentially causing a more serious health condition. If this happens, talk to your doctor or medical health professional.
Humans can contract worms from cats and dogs.
Depending on the type of worm or parasite, humans can become infected when they accidentally eat a microscopic egg, larvae or worm-infected flea. Some worms, like hookworm, can burrow into our skin, causing irritation and itching.
Humans are most likely to ingest these tiny eggs, larvae and worm-inflected fleas if we’ve been gardening, playing in the dirt, or walking barefoot in an infected area. Thoroughly washing your (and your children’s) hands after contact with the soil is important. If your pet (or furry visitors like a neighbour’s cat) often poos in your garden, wear gloves when gardening, clean the area regularly and avoid walking around barefoot.
Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC), Resources and FAQs, (accessed August 2022), https://www.petsandparasites.org/resources/faqs
Jason Drake & Tom Carey, Seasonality and changing prevalence of common canine gastrointestinal nematodes in the USA, Parasites & Vectors 12, 430 (2019), (accessed August 2022), https://parasitesandvectors.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13071-019-3701-7
Matamata Veterinary Services, Worming for cats and dogs, (accessed August 2022), http://www.matamatavets.co.nz/smallanimalpetinformationservices/dog-worming/
Advantage Petcare Australia, Worms in dogs and cats: Myths vs. facts, (Accessed August 2022), https://www.advantagepetcare.com.au/au/parasites/worms-dogs-and-cats-myths-vs-facts/
Though infection is more common in spring and summer, parasites can infect your pet anytime. It’s a good idea to talk to your veterinarian about year-round flea and tick control. And to avoid unexpected costs, make sure your pet is insured.