Ticks

Ticks, what are they good for??? Absolutely nothing… I’ll say it again…

What Are They?
Ticks are arachnids related to spiders; they have 8 legs and a large abdomen. They feed by burrowing their head into the skin of an animal; all that can be seen is a rounded abdomen sticking out of the body. This will swell with blood the longer they have been attached to the animal; unfed they can be as small as 3mm, and when fed up to 1.5cm.

Tick season is generally September to March, but they can be found at any time of year. If a tick attaches to your pet, the poison found in their salivary glands is extremely toxic. Be particularly vigilant during the warmer months. Areas near beaches and marshlands are particularly prone for ticks.  For instance Sydney’s Northern Beaches has one of the highest incidence of tick related illness and sadly even death in the country.

Signs to Look Out For
Tick poisoning causes ‘ascending paralysis’; or a gradual loss of ability to use their muscles, starting from the bottom of the cat and moving upwards. This is why the most often seen sign is a loss of ability to use the back legs or walk up stairs. Look out for:

  • A change in their voice – their meow may become softer or higher pitched.
  • Weakness in the back legs – reluctance to move or jump on to furniture is a common early sign.
  • Vomiting – particularly if it is frothy.

As the symptoms worsen, you may see:

  • Wobbliness in the hips and back legs, and eventually an inability to stand.
  • Excessive drooling and vomiting.
  • Panting and loud, strenuous breathing.
  • A moist sounding cough.

If your cat is showing any of these symptoms, then it is very important to take them to your vet as soon as possible. The earlier that tick poisoning is treated, the better the outcome is likely to be. On the way there, try to keep your pet still, quiet and cool, and don’t give them anything to eat or drink. Cover their cat carrier with a towel to try and keep them quiet.

Luckily, there are many preventative products and measures you can take to try and avoid this situation.

Every Day
Search your pet from top to bottom. Feel against the fur, starting at the head, and move backwards until you reach the tip of the tail. Make sure you check around the ears, eyes and mouth, and between the pads. Common places that ticks can be missed are under collar, along the gum line and around the bottom area. If you find a tick, call your local vet right away.

Product Options

  1. Washes are a relatively inexpensive option, but many cats just will not tolerate them, as they need to be applied often and well generally speaking cats just really dislike baths.
  2. Frontline Spray lasts for 3 weeks, and is completely waterproof. However, it can be difficult to apply to wriggling cats, as it requires them to be sprayed thoroughly all over.
  3. Spot On Treatments such as Frontline Plus have never been tested on cats for tick control.  It does however have the same active ingredients as Frontline Plus for Cats and as such many vets recommend it, please check with your vet before using this product as tick protection or call the Frontline helpline and ask questions.
  4. NB:  Advantix cannot be used on cats, it is a dog only treatment, and can cause illness and even death in cats.  If you have a dog as well as a cat and use this product and many people do, it is recommended by Bayer and Vets that you separate your dog and cat during application, and for a short time afterwards.

Keeping up to date with your chosen product greatly reduces the risk of tick poisoning, however you should still check your pet every day.

 

Worms

I am not sure about you, but I think worms are pretty gross, albeit a natural part of our pets lives.   So keeping up to date with treatment is the best possible way to keep your cat free of intestinal, heart and lungworm.

Keeping up to date with worming is another important part of your cat’s health maintenance. These nasty little creatures can populate their stomach, intestines, and even lungs and heart before you can even know. Using a regular worming treatment is an easy and safe way to protect them.

What Are They?
There are two main types of worms that commonly affect cats – heartworms, and intestinal worms. Just as their names suggest, heartworms infect the heart and lungs, whilst intestinal worms infect the digestive system. There is just one type of heartworm, but several types of intestinal worms.

Both can be prevented with a regular tablet, but it’s important to remember that not all products will control both types of worm. An ‘all wormer’ will sometimes mean all intestinal worms, and won’t prevent heartworm as well.

Heartworms – transmitted by mosquitoes, during their lifecycle heartworms make their way through the blood stream to the heart and lungs of your cat. There they can block up the blood vessels and cause coughing, weight loss, fatigue and eventual heart failure. Because the signs are so subtle at first, they can often go unnoticed for a significant period of time.

Intestinal worms – including whipworms, hookworms, tapeworms and roundworms. They can be passed on through flea bites, from the mother, or picking up eggs from the ground, but all of them can cause varying symptoms, generally fatigue and weight loss, and a general lacklustre appearance.

How To Avoid Them
There are many products that will control both intestinal and lung/heartworms. There are chews, tablets and even spot on treatments for cats who just won’t take tablets.

There are some products that will control intestinal, heartworms and fleas.  Making it a simple one stop spot on treatment, which will probably cause your cat less stress, then being treated for all of them at different times.

Fleas

Why do fleas even exist???  No one likes the idea that their believed kitty has fleas, it causes them to groom more, which can lead to hairballs or at least scratch themselves in some cases leading to skin irritation.

Know Your Enemy
It’s a fairly gross concept but it is true most fleas are in the environment and not on your cat.  At any point in time, only 5% of the flea population in your house is actively on your cat. This means that if you treat them and kill 20 fleas, there are still 400 ready to jump back on.

Not only that, but 50% of the flea population is still in egg form. These are resistant to flea products, and will hatch in approximately 2 weeks. So once you think you have got the problem under control, a whole new population will emerge ready to fight.

Treat the Environment First
That is why it’s so important to treat the whole house and not just your pet. Start by vacuuming – you will remove a great deal of eggs, larvae and adults this way. Along the baseboards, all over and under the furniture, and any bedding. Be extremely thorough and you’ve won half the battle.

Once you are finished, use a flea product designed for inside. You can use any bomb, fogger or aerosol, designed to kill fleas. Make sure that the product reaches under the furniture too.

Keep Up to Date
Now you can start to treat your pet. There are many products available, so it’s easy to choose one to suit you both. Using them regularly will make sure that those eggs that hatch never get a chance.

Monthly tablets or chews are quick and easy, and are extremely effective.

If your cat is fussy about what goes in their mouth, try a spot on treatment. These will also kill fleas for up to a month, and simply have to be placed on the back of their neck. Just remember, no baths for 24 hours before or after or you’ll lose its effectiveness.   Please note:  The spot on treatment called Advantix is toxic to cats, it can only be used on dogs.  If you also have a dog, and use this product, please separate your animals when applying and for a few hours after, especially if your cat and dog play together.

Flea control sprays or rinses last for a long time, if you have a particularly obliging cat. Frontline spray will last for 2 months without having to be reapplied.

Alternatively, there are products that will control fleas, worms and other parasites in combination, to make your parasite control much easier.

Preventing Reinfestation
Every time your cat pops out of the cat flap, he is susceptible to picking up more fleas. There are fast knockdown treatments available that will kill adult fleas on your cat.