Parasites are a big problem for pet owners, especially when the weather warms up and all sorts of little nasties decide it's time to start multiplying. The best you can hope for from parasites is a real annoyance. In worse cases, they can lead to serious diseases.
The most common ectoparasites (parasites that inflict your pet externally) are, of course, fleas. You can probably name half a dozen effective solutions like Advantage, Advantix or Advocate flea treatment for cats and dogs and other treatments such as spot treatments, flea collars, powders and shampoos. However, most people wait until their pet has fleas, treat the infestation, and then wait until it recurs before taking any further steps. Very few people follow any effective flea prevention regimen to keep their pet from getting infested in the first place.
Like treatments, the signs that your pet may be suffering from fleas are familiar to most owners. The main indicator is frequent scratching, especially around the rear half of your pet's body. If left unattended, this can turn into inflammation and, in extreme cases, skin infections. Some pets are allergic to fleas, making them especially vulnerable to these symptoms. Furthermore, fleas can serve as a carrier for another parasite; the tapeworm.
When treating fleas, it's advised to not only focus on the pet which seems to be having the problem. Fleas like to get around, so it is important to treat all animals in the house. Even if the type of flea in question won't live on this animal on a permanent basis, it's entirely likely that a few have hopped on for a quick bite at any given time. It is your home, however, that provides the great majority (95%) of the environment in which fleas live out their life cycle, so use a treatment for your home - especially carpets - as well. This will ensure you target the entire flea population and prevent the problem from quickly coming back.
The other main ectoparasite to watch out for is the tick. They are currently not all that common, but their numbers are growing as the climate grows warmer. One of the main problems with ticks is that they can so easily go unnoticed until they've been in place for quite a while, at which point swelling develops. While they may not seem unpleasant until this stage due to the lack of symptoms, they can serve as carriers for Lyme Disease and other unpleasant illnesses. If you find ticks on your pet, remove them carefully with a special tool or ask your vet to do so. Ensure the head and mouthparts are removed as well as the body. The lump they leave behind will usually go down on its own, but can turn nasty if it gets infected.
If you wish to be vigilant in making sure that parasite infestations never even begin, there are a number of preventative treatments available in injected, spot-on and tablet forms. Consult your vet to find the most appropriate pet medication for your pet.
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