We’re in the grip of winter plus we’re isolating due to Covid-19 so our pets aren’t getting out as much as they used to. That means we don’t need to use parasite control, right? Wrong.

Parasites like ticks, fleas and worms don’t hang around waiting for bikini weather; they hang around waiting for a host and at the first sign of a furry leg or tummy they hitch a ride.

Just five minutes of being outdoors is all a tick needs to attach itself to your pet, whether in long grass or a sandy backyard. 

Fleas love winter, especially in homes that are heated. Warm, moist conditions create the ideal breeding conditions and, like tenants who default on rent, once fleas are in your home they’re almost impossible to evict.

Worms, like tapeworm, are easily spread via food and drinking water and can be passed from pets to humans. Hookworms spread through soil. They get into soil via poop that has hookworm eggs and when you walk barefoot over the soil or on the beach, the worms can enter your body through the skin on your feet and cause an infection.

Diseases spread by parasites

There are a whole host of nasty diseases that parasites carry or cause, some of which can be life-threatening. Ticks, for example, cause tick bite fever which results in the deaths of thousands of dogs in South Africa each year. Ticks also cause biliary, another potentially fatal disease.

Fleas can carry and transmit several potential illnesses of importance to humans, including typhus and plague, and can transmit “cat scratch disease” among cats who can then spread the disease to humans. Additionally, fleas serve as an intermediate host for tapeworms. Fleas are responsible for flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) in dogs and cats, which is estimated to account for over 50 percent of all skin ailments reported to veterinarians.

Hookworm infection can cause an itchy rash, respiratory and gastrointestinal problems, and eventually iron deficiency anaemia due to ongoing loss of blood.

In rare cases, tapeworms can lead to serious complications, including blocking the intestine, or smaller ducts in the intestine (like the bile duct or pancreatic duct). Pork tapeworm larvae can migrate out of the intestine to other parts of the body and cause damage to the livereyesheart, and brain. These infections can be life-threatening. Seizures are the most common symptom of cysticercosis, the infection caused by the larvae of the pork tapeworm.

So what can I do?

The only solution to combating all of these critters is regular parasite control. There are no vaccinations against parasites but year-round parasite control diligently applied is highly effective in keeping them at bay. And there are plenty of options to choose from, depending on the size and age of your pet, the ease of application (spot-on, collar or chew) and your budget. Beware of choosing those cheap as chips supermarket offerings, however, as they’re unlikely to provide adequate long-term protection. Ask your vet or EberVet Vetshop for recommendations as not all parasite control is suitable for all pets. Puppies, kittens and lactating mothers, for example, need special precautions and never, ever give a cat the parasite control that is meant for a dog. It is toxic to cats.

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