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Fleas & Worms

Posted by on February 20, 2012

About Fleas

There are over 2000 species of flea in the world. However only the cat flea and the dog flea (Ctenocephalides felis, Ctenocephalides canis) are important to dogs and cats. Despite the name, cat fleas infest dogs just as much as they infest cats. Fleas are one of the most common parasites caught by pet cats and dogs. Unfortunately, Fleas are not just an inconvenience. Their saliva is considered one of the most allergenic substances on earth, and is the cause of a nasty skin disease in pets called Flea Allergic Dermatitis (FAD). Also, when they bite, fleas ingest blood. If the infestation is severe enough, it can cause anaemia or even kill a small puppy or kitten.

Q: Which Dogs Are Susceptible?

A: Every dog is likely to become infested with fleas at some time during their life. These days, central heating and wall-to-wall carpets in your home provide the perfect breeding ground for fleas all year round

Q: Where Do The Fleas Come From?

A: Your dog can pick up adult fleas from an animal or an environment (such as your home!) which is already infested. The adult flea lays hundreds of eggs into your pets environment ; the eggs hatch within days but the larval stage can lie dormant for months until a likely host comes along.

Q: What Problems Are Likely To Be Seen?

A: Fleas ‘bite’ to feed on your pets blood. Dirt is usually the tell-tail sign of the presence of fleas, small black flecks deep in the animal’s coat. If these are examined on damp blotting paper a red spot appears as the blood spreads out. Some pets may be very irritated and allergic even to an occasional bite, while others may show little obvious signs in quite heavy infestation. Infestation leads to spread of tapeworm infestation and other serious infections if left untreated.

Q: Can People Be Affected?

A: Yes! Bites, causing small red wheals to appear on your skin after holding your pet are very common. Irritation may also occur around your ankles from environmental fleas.

Q: How can I prevent an Infestation?

A: There are three main methods of control

  1. Kill the adult flea on the dog. Flea collars may be used but some animals are sensitive to them. There are sprays, washes, powders or “pour- ons”.
  2. Kill the developmental stages in the environment. This can be done by thorough vacuum cleaning and washing the dogs bedding. There are insecticide / insecticide growth regulator combinations available for household use.
  3. The dosing of dogs using the modern “spot-ons” which kill the larvae and the adult stages has given significantly better control of flea infestations.

N.B.In contact animals must all be treated together

Q: How do I cure An Existing Problem?

A: Household sprays used around soft furnishings help to prevent re-infestation by limiting the population of immature fleas that exist off your pets. Most of these now have excellent safety margins. It is important that these not only kill the parasite but also persist for long periods – 6 to12 months is a typical duration of action for top products, usually supplied by your vet.

Frontline is the market leading insecticide for application to pets. It works well for a full month from a single spot on application, and has an excellent safety record. There are occasional incidences of local irritation at the site of application.

Frontline Combo (currently only available through your vet) is a variation on the product which incorporates a second active ingredient to help kill environmental stages.

Both will also control ticks for a shorter period, and both fulfill requirements of the Pet Travel Scheme.

Stronghold is an alternative and effective spot on application which is active against environmental stages and also against the common round worms in dogs and cats. Stronghold also kills ear mites, a common cause of irritation and ear infection in cats.

Advantage is also another alternative product

Other “spot on” products are available through various stores, most of these contain pyrethroids and are generally not as effective or persistent method of treatment.

Shampoos are generally ineffective, killing only the adult fleas present in your pets coat at the time of treatment only, and not controlling the immature flea stages in the environment of the pet, which represent the biggest part of an infestation. Using a dedicated shampoo may actually increase the irritation caused by fleas, by removing the natural oils present in an animals skin. They are therefore not usually recommended.

About Worms

Worm (endoparasite) infections in dogs are frequently seen in the UK. Young animals have a lower resistance to infection and given that unborn pups can be infected whilst still in their mothers’ womb via the blood, or immediately after their birth via the colostrum, it is most important to start worming pups from about 2 weeks of age.

Dogs can become infected with a wide range of parasitic worms, many of which can be passed to humans, with rare, but potentially serious health consequences. In the UK, the main human health risk is from the roundworm Toxocara spp. and the tapeworm: E. Granulosus. Apart from the unnatural behaviour of  keeping your dog indoors, there is no way of preventing it from coming into contact with these parasites. Therefore, regular worming is the only practical method of control.

When travelling, our pets are exposed to many parasites that are not usually found in the UK. Again, there is no practical way in which we can prevent this. The law requires that all travelling dogs are wormed, not just for their own safety, but to prevent the spread of foreign parasites to the UK. Other worms can be largely controlled by preventing the dog’s exposure to the source of infection. Make sure that your dog hasn’t got fleas, and he/she is unlikely to catch the tapeworm: Dipylidium. Ensure that your dog isn’t able to hunt rodents, or eat raw meat, and the chance of a Taenia infection becomes remote.

With regular worming, it doesn’t matter where your pet goes, or when, you can be confident that you are protecting other people and pets from the effects of an infestation with the worms described on this website.

Q: What Types Of Worm Infections Are There?

A: Roundworms

These worms are spaghetti-like in appearance and non-segmented. Toxocara canis and Toxascaris leonina are both seen in the UK. A heavy infestation can cause a pot-bellied appearance, diarrhoea and result in a poor growth rate.  Toxacara canis can also affect humans, causing a variety of symptoms and in rare instances, blindness in children.


These worms are segmented and can grow to several feet in length. The small head of the worm fastens to the lining of the small intestine and the main body of the worm trails downstream. The adult worm sheds segments, which are full of eggs and can often be seen around the anus or on the stools. They resemble grains of rice.


These worms suck blood from the lining of the gut and can cause serious anaemia and internal bleeding. Hookworms can also cause skin disease as infective larvae are able to burrow directly into the exposed skin.


Like hookworms, these worms are blood-suckers living in the lining of the small intestine. They can cause bloody diarrhoea and weight loss.

Q: What Can I Do To Control Worm Infections?

A: Given that worm infections are so common in the UK, the prevention of infection is practically impossible. Control is based on a regular quarterly treatment with a drug that will kill worms. These may be given orally as powders, tablets or suspension as well as by ‘spot-ons’, and even injections in some instances. It should be noted that not all worm groups are killed by all of the available drugs, so it is important to gain advice as to which products are suitable for your pets needs.




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