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When to sterilise your pet

Dr Rose talks about the best time to have your pet sterilised and what behavioural issues you might encounter with your dog if you choose to delay sterilisation.

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Pet wise in the month of January

Everything you need to know about fleas

For many pet owners, January marks that time of year where left un-checked, fleas can wreak havoc on your pet’s health, as well as drive you crazy. The good thing is that it need not get to a point where you have a flea problem in the first place.

Okay, so what is a flea?

A flea is a small wingless insect that is known for its exceptional jumping ability; it can jump up to 1,000 times its own height. The “cat” flea, Ctenocephalides felis, is the most common flea species on both cats and dogs in most areas of the world. Adult fleas live permanently on the skin and feed on the blood of dogs and cats.

How do fleas affect my pets?

Large flea infestations can cause anaemia in young puppies or kittens. Fleas bite an average of ten times per day and can suck up to fifteen times their own body weight in blood. Flea bites also cause skin irritation (but we don’t need to tell you that) followed by excessive grooming by your pet that may result in skin damage and dermatitis.

Some dogs and cats become allergic to components of flea saliva and develop Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD). This may cause marked hair loss on the abdomen, back of the thighs, flanks and tail due to excessive grooming and licking.

That sounds terrible – what should I be doing about it?

Fleas have a very high reproductive potential: females may lay up to fifty eggs per day for more than 100 days. Flea eggs drop off the pet’s coat and then hatch releasing larvae which crawl into carpets, under furniture and even into cracks between floorboards. They feed on flea faeces, seen as black ‘dirt’ on your pets coat. The larvae then form pupae inside which they transform into young adult fleas.

Well sheltered, they can survive here for many months, even up to a year.

Stimuli for adult fleas to break out of the pupal casing are produced when a potential host (dog, cat or human) is in the vicinity. The average length of the flea life cycle is from three to five weeks under optimal conditions (warm and humid) but it may be much longer under cold, dry conditions. Young fleas protected in pupae may survive for 6 months or more.

All-in-all, that works out to a LOT of flea bites.

What should I treat my pets with?

There are a number of different products available; some are ‘spot-on’ applications, some are sprays and some are in tasty tablet form. Your vet will be able to advise you based on the number of pets, behaviour of your animals (e.g. dogs that like to swim may benefit from a chewable tablet that can’t be washed off) and other factors to find the best solution for you. In heavy infestations, particularly where fleas are also biting humans, an environmental treatment may be advisable. These frequently contain insecticides in combination with insect growth regulators, to inhibit egg hatching and larval development.

A crucial thing to appreciate, is that controlling fleas only when they are in their adult stage, is leaving it too late. Your flea control strategy needs to take into account the thousands of potentially dormant eggs that are waiting for optimal conditions to mature.

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Pet wise in the month of December

Options for pet care for when your family is on holiday

December is typically that time of year when families look to start going on their end-of-year holidays. For pet owners, this can be an anxious time of year as to how to ensure that your pets are properly cared for while you’re away.

We present three possible options for making sure that your fur friends are well-cared while you’re on vacation.

Get a Pet sitter

Pet sitting has the added benefit of having someone look after your home while you’re away. Many veterinary practices will list the services of seasoned pet sitters on their notice boards. Your animals will feel more comfortable in their own space, and this likely imposes the least amount of stress on your animal.

Asking a neighbour or friend

If you’re only going away for a few nights, your chummy neighbour might be happy to come over daily, check on your animals, and ensure that they have sufficient food and fresh water. If you have a dog, this might be trickier, given that dogs require walking, and more attention than say, a cat would.

Kennel or cattery

If you’re not overly keen on the idea of some strange person living in your house and your last interaction with your neighbour was less than amicable, then sending your pets off to a cattery or kennel might be a good option. Be sure to book well in advance and ensure too that you understand all their rules around vaccinations. We wrote about this in our November newsletters, which you can find here.

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