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Flea and wormer advice - Cats Protection

Infection from parasites can affect both outdoor and indoor cats, and even if they are showing no visible sign of infection this does not necessarily mean they do not have a parasite burden.

External parasites - Fleas

The most common external skin parasite is the flea and the most common flea found on cats and dogs is the cat flea.

What are common signs of fleas?

·         Your may notice that your cat is itching and scratching more frequently

·         Bite marks on humans, most commonly found on ankles

·         Should your cat have an allergy to flea bites you may notice hair loss or inflamed skin

·         Fleas can be hard to spot as they move fast. One way you could check is to place your cat on a sheet of white paper and comb it meticulously. A fine-toothed flea may dislodge a flea or some flea dirt’s which once made wet on the paper may turn red

·         You may be able to find flea dirt or white eggs where your cat sleeps

How can fleas be treated?

For the most effective control, adult fleas on the cat must be killed and re-infestation prevented. It is extremely important that you do not use products that are intended for dogs on your cat, as these can be toxic for your cat. Please consult with your vet regarding appropriate treatments and notify them of any flea treatments that have been used before they prescribe other flea control products or treatments. It is essential to follow product instructions carefully and all topical products must be allowed to dry before handling the animal.

How can fleas be prevented?

Re-infestation can be prevented by using a product that kills adult fleas on the cat, or one that provides environmental control by interrupting the flea’s life cycle. Treatment must be regular. Please be aware that it is not just your cat that will need to be treated. All other pets will need to be treated appropriate to their species, to get the flea problem under control.

Why it is a good idea to control fleas?

       It can take longer to treat a flea infestation (weeks or months) than to put the steps in place to prevent fleas

       When you cat is grooming they are at risk of ingesting the larval stage of a tapeworm as cat fleas carries this

       Allergies to fleas can be developed by your cat

       Anaemia (blood loss) can be caused by adult fleas, which can threaten the lives of kittens

       Humans can also be bitten by the cat flea and these bites can be very itchy

       Other infectious agents can be transmitted through fleas

Internal parasites

The two most commonly found internal parasites in cats are tapeworms and roundworms, which reside in the gut, or intestinal tract. Tapeworms are flat and common in the bowel of most mammals, whereas adult roundworms look like a white earthworm and can grow up to 10cm long. In addition, roundworms are the most common intestinal parasite found in cats. 

What are the signs of tapeworms?

The head of the tapeworm through its suckers or hooks and its segments containing eggs latches onto the lining of the gut. It may be that you will find these segments in your cat’s faeces, around their anus or in bedding. They look similar to a grain of rice and may move.

How can worms be treated and prevented?

The best thing to do is contact your vet should you have any concerns that your cat has worms. Your local vet can provide effective wormer treatments and can advise regarding your cat or kittens requirements.

Why control worms?

If your cat is infested with worms it can potentially cause diarrhoea, decrease in weight, sickness, hinder development (more threatening for a kitten) and irritation around the anus. Humans can also be infected by roundworms. One way to reduce this risk is to ensure that your cat's litter tray emptied and cleaned on a daily basis. Although fairly uncommon, humans can be affected by tapeworms..

For further advice on fleas and worms visit our essential guide booklet ‘Fleas and other parasites and ‘itchy cats and skin disorders’ found at www.cats.org.uk/cat-care.care-leaflets

This article is intended as a guide only. Always seek veterinary advice regarding flea and worming treatments as they will be able to recommend the best option.

Cats Protection © November 2014

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