The nasties, no match for Revolution

Parasites are the cause of many diseases in cats and dogs. To keep your pet healthy, learn how to recognise the symptoms of parasites, as well as how to prevent and treat parasite infestations.

What is a parasite?

A parasite is a plant or animal that lives on or inside another living organism (called a host). A parasite is dependent on its host and obtains a benefit, such as survival, at the host's expense.

Are there different kinds of parasites?

There are two basic types:

  • Internal parasites

    (endoparasites) such as heartworms, hookworms and roundworms that live inside the body of a host.

  • External parasites

    (ectoparasites) such as fleas and ear mites that live outside, on the body of their host.

How dangerous are parasites to my pet?

It depends on three things: the type of parasite, the degree of infection or infestation, and your pet's individual reaction. A mild flea infestation may be of no great consequence to some cats and dogs, while others may show hair loss, itching and discomfort. Severe flea infestations can lead to significant skin disease, anaemia or even death, especially in young kittens and puppies. Infestations by ear mites can cause inflammation of the outer ear (i.e. 'otitis') that can be further complicated by secondary fungal and bacterial infections characterised by an unpleasant odour and a crusty brown discharge.

Sarcoptic mange mites in dogs can cause severe itchiness, hair loss and discomfort. These mites can also infect humans who come into contact with affected dogs.

Heartworms are potentially deadly yet completely preventable parasites. Immature worms are transmitted to cats and dogs during the bite of a host mosquito. Over time, these immature worms migrate and grow inside the host to eventually become adult heartworms that reside in the large blood vessels of the lungs and the right side of the heart. The eventual effect of their presence, if left untreated, is heart failure.

Cats and dogs with unidentified heartworm disease are usually brought to veterinarians because of general symptoms such as coughing, lethargy, exercise intolerance or a loss of appetite. Heartworm is much easier to prevent than treat, because preventative treatments like Revolution are safe when used as directed, effective, economical, easy-to-administer and non-invasive.

Are parasites in my pet a risk to me or my family?

Parasites like hookworms and roundworms can be transmitted to humans and can cause a variety of health problems including nausea, neurological problems and even blindness.

What makes Revolution the preferred parasite control product?

Revolution is the first topical treatment to protect against a wide range of both external and internal parasites in cats and dogs. That's what makes it so revolutionary because in the past, you needed multiple treatments that were difficult to remember, hard to use, and stressful for you and your pet.

Fleas

There's no other way to put it - fleas are blood-sucking ectoparasites (they live on the skin surface of their 'host').

Pets most often affected

Both cats and dogs

What is a flea?

Fleas are blood-sucking ectoparasites. There are 2,200 flea species known in the world today. Only a few of these commonly infest cats and dogs. Fleas are not the same as ticks.
The most common flea that affects both cats and dogs is the cat flea, or Ctenocephalides felis. Its dark brown or black body is about one to three millimetres long. They can also feed on people, but we're not their first choice of meal.

Why do cats and dogs get fleas?

Fleas love warm, humid environments. And they are determined, nimble creatures capable of Olympian feats. When they're hungry and looking for a home, they can jump 10,000 times in a row up to 60 centimetres high. Plus their flat bodies allow them to move quickly through a cat or dog's fur.
You'll usually find fleas on the abdomen, the base of the tail and the head. However, a heavy infestation can thrive anywhere on the body.

What are common signs that my pet has fleas?

  • You may be able to see fleas on your pet, especially if there is a large burden
  • Fleas are small, and just because you don't find one on your pet, it doesn't mean that they're not there or that your pet is not being bitten by them!
  • Fleas suck your pet's blood and can cause terrible skin irritation that will make your pet scratch, lick and bite themself. This may result in rashes, scaly skin, hot spots and hair loss
  • Droppings, digested blood known as flea dirt, in your pet's coat

The 4 life cycle stages of a flea

Adult fleas (5% of lifecycle):
  • are the ones you see moving around your pet's coat
  • bite then feed on the blood of their host
  • male and female adult fleas mate and lay eggs
Flea eggs (50% of lifecycle):
  • are not sticky and once laid quickly fall off the pet into the surrounding environment
  • can't be readily seen with the naked eye
  • take between 1-10 days to hatch into larvae
Flea larvae (35% of lifecycle)
  • hatch from the flea eggs
  • are a small worm-like lifeform that move away from the light
  • bury themselves in dark places e.g. deep in carpet pile, cracks in floorboards, etc.
  • last 5-11 days while they undergo 2 moults to become a pupa (cocoon)
Flea pupae (10% of lifecycle):
  • are in a sticky impenetrable cocoon that becomes covered in debris
  • cannot be killed by insecticides.
  • usually lasts 5-14 days, but may lay dormant for up to 6 months

What do fleas do to cats and dogs?

Adult fleas have specially adapted mouth parts for piercing the skin and sucking blood. More than just annoying and irritating to your dog, they can also cause significant skin disease. Flea blood feeding is also associated with the transmission of several infectious diseases to both pets and people in Australia.

What is flea allergy dermatitis (FAD)?

It's an itchy skin disease animals develop from an allergic reaction to the saliva of fleas feeding on their blood. An affected pet will be very itchy – often from scratching, biting, licking and chewing. Their skin is usually reddened and there may be lesions and hair loss.

Infectious diseases from fleas

It's not just your pet at risk here. Fleas can carry infectious diseases that are transmitted to humans such as:

  • Rickettsia spp. – causes flea-borne spotted fever
  • Bartonella henselae – causes cat scratch fever
  • Yersinia pestis – causes Plague, an identified agent of bioterrorism.

How can I treat or prevent fleas?

Products such as Revolution® can be used to treat, control and prevent flea infestations, as well as control flea allergy dermatitis.
Flea preventatives should be used year round. Your vet will be able to help you choose the right one for your pet.

Heartworm

Unfortunately, it's as scary as it sounds: worms that live in your pet's heart! Heartworm disease can kill cats and dogs, but it's also readily preventable.

Pets most often affected

Both cats and dogs

Heartworm in cats

How do cats get heartworm?

  • Mosquitoes transmit the disease to cats by injecting tiny heartworm larvae into their skin
  • The larvae develop and migrate through the body to the lungs and heart
  • The presence of heartworm larvae in the lungs can cause significant lung damage
  • Heartworm larvae can develop into adults that live in the heart and large blood vessels surrounding the heart

What are signs that my cat may have heartworm?

Due to the presence of heartworm larvae in the lungs and/or adult heartworm in the heart, the clinical signs that may be seen in cats with heartworm are:

  • None
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coughing
  • Vomiting
  • Sudden death

How do vets check for heartworm in cats?

  • Heartworm can be very difficult to diagnose in cats
  • Diagnosis may involve blood tests, chest radiographs, x-rays or ultrasound

How is heartworm infection treated in cats?

There is no treatment for feline heartworm. There are options for the management of the clinical signs caused by infection but no safe treatment exists for the infection responsible for the clinical signs. Prevention of heartworm infection is recommended.

Heartworm in dogs

How do dogs get heartworm?

  • Mosquitoes transmit the disease to dogs by injecting tiny heartworm larvae into their skin
  • The larvae develop in the tissues and migrate to the heart where they grow into adult worms
  • The adults live in the heart and the large blood vessels surrounding the heart
  • They reproduce and release more larval offspring into the dog's blood stream
  • These larvae can then be taken by a mosquito and transmitted to another dog or cat

What are signs my dog may have heartworm?

Due to the stress that adult worms have on a dog's heart, there are often clinical signs of heart disease or heart failure such as:

  • lethargy
  • tiring easily with exercise
  • coughing
  • loss of appetite
  • enlarged abdomen

How do vets check for heartworm in dogs?

  • A blood test to see if adult heartworms or their offspring are present
  • Chest radiographs and ultrasound may also be used

How can I treat heartworm?

Heartworm adults can be treated, but it carries risks for your dog and there are no guarantees of a successful outcome. Your dog may need a series of arsenic-based injections or even surgery to remove the adult worms from their heart when there are too many to risk the injection. As with most of these sorts of things, prevention is better than cure.

When should I start my puppy on a heartworm prevention program?

Start within the first few months of their life. There are a variety of products available in the form of tablets, chews, syrups, top spots and injections. Your vet can advise you on the most suitable product for your puppy.

Ear mites

These troublesome pests are unpleasant for pet and owner alike.

Pets most often affected

Cats, dogs and rabbits

What you should know

Ear mites are highly contagious and pass easily from pet to pet. Otodectes cynotis, the ear mite of dogs, accounts for 5–10 percent of otitis externa cases in dogs. Otitis externa, an inflammation of the external ear, results in frequent head shaking and pawing, an unpleasant odour, and discharge.
Ear mites are easily transmitted among animals and are spread by direct contact. These oval mites are fairly large, and look like coffee grounds in the pet's ear. These troublesome pests do not burrow in the ear; rather, they live on the ear canal's inner surface.

Signs

  • Ear infection
  • Intense scratching or head shaking
  • Red-brown or waxy ear discharge
  • Itching skin around ears, head, neck
  • Thick crust around outer ear
  • Possible crust and scales on neck, rump, and tail

What you can do to help

Your veterinarian can recommend preventive treatment such as Revolution (selamectin).
Monthly use of Revolution treats and controls ear mite (O. cynotis) infestations in cat and dogs, and in kittens and puppies as young as 6 weeks. A single dose of Revolution was effective in treating ear mites (P. cuniculi) in rabbits. Ask your veterinarian about Revolution.

Hookworm

This pesky parasite can cause anaemia in cats and dogs an itchy rash in humans.

Pets most often affected

Cats and dogs

What is hookworm?

Hookworm is a common intestinal, bloodsucking parasite that uses its hook-like mouthpart to latch onto the lining of the intestinal wall.

What you should know

Kittens and puppies may become infected with hookworm prior to birth, while nursing or from eating animals such as infected rodents. Hookworm infection is typically detected through a faecal exam, performed by your veterinarian. Hookworm larvae can also infect humans by burrowing into the skin, resulting in a rash known as cutaneous larval migrans or "ground itch." People can also unknowingly ingest eggs after being in a contaminated environment, causing an infection.

Signs

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Anaemia
  • Poor coat condition
  • Weight loss

What you can do to help

Prevention includes frequent deworming of kittens and puppies by your veterinarian, regular faecal exams, prompt disposal of cat and dog faeces (particularly away from children's sand boxes) and the administration of a preventative medication.

Roundworm

Roundworms are one of the most common parasitic worms found inside a cat or dog.

Pets most often affected

Cats and dogs

What is roundworm?

Roundworm, another common intestinal parasite in cats and dogs, lives within the small intestine and migrates through the liver and lungs causing organ damage which can be severe if there are large numbers.

What you should know

Roundworm can cause fatal infections in kittens and puppies. A kitten or puppy may become infected with roundworm when it suckles its mother or by consuming roundworm eggs shed by another cat or dog.
People can become infected by consuming roundworm eggs. This is more likely to happen to children who encounter a contaminated outdoor area, and get the sticky roundworm eggs on their clothes or toys, then their hands and, eventually, in their mouth.

Signs

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • A pot-bellied appearance
  • Abdominal discomfort

What you can do to help

Prevention includes regular faecal exams, prompt disposal of cat or dog faeces and the administration of a preventative medication

Whipworm

This nasty internal worm can cause acute, chronic or intermittent diarrhoea in dogs.

Pets most often affected

Dogs

What is whipworm?

Whipworm, an intestinal parasite in dogs, lives within the last part of the small intestine and the first part of the large intestines.

What you should know

Whipworms can cause acute, chronic, or intermittent diarrhoea in dogs. Typically, the stool is mucoid and bloody. The diarrhoea is often accompanied by urgency and straining. Dogs with a heavy infestation may lose weight, fail to thrive, and develop anaemia.

Signs

  • Diarrhoea
  • Loss of weight
  • Loss of energy

What you can do to help

Eggs remain infective in the environment for up to five years. In areas such as public parks and backyards, where the ground has been heavily contaminated with whipworm eggs, frequent reinfection is a common problem. It is important to observe pooper-scooper ordinances and remove stools in the garden every day.

Tapeworm

Tapeworms live in the small intestines and vary from less than an inch to several feet in length.

Pets most often affected

Dogs and cats

What is tapeworm?

The most common tapeworm of dogs and cats is Dipylidium caninum. Fleas serve as intermediate hosts when they ingest the eggs. A dog or cat must bite or swallow an infected flea to acquire the parasite. The head of the tapeworm must be destroyed or else the worm will regenerate. Humans can also catch tapeworms which makes this parasite even more dangerous. There are also other species of tapeworm that can be found in uncooked meat and offal.

Signs

  • Anal itching
  • Poor nutrition

What you can do to help

The common dog tapeworm can be controlled by eliminating fleas from the environment. Dogs and cats should be confined to prevent them from roaming and eating dead animals. Avoid feeding your dog or cat uncooked meat and raw game.

Sarcoptic mange

Hair loss and skin infections can result when scabies mites affect your pet.

Pets most often affected

Dogs and rabbits

What you should know

Mange is a broad term that describes skin disease. Scabies, a form of mange, is caused by microscopic mites that lay eggs under a dog's skin. Scabies mites are round and are so tiny that they are not visible to the naked eye.
These types of mites tend to prefer areas on a dog with no hair or very little hair in the beginning. Mange often results in severe skin inflammation, which can trigger intense itching and eventual hair loss. Scratching may cause a secondary skin infection. Sarcoptic mange is easily transmitted to other dogs and can be transmitted to humans.

Signs

  • Intense itching, scratching and biting, especially around face,
    chest, legs, elbows, ears, or hocks (ankles)
  • Small red bumps
  • Hair loss
  • Crusty scabs

What you can do to help

Your veterinarian can recommend preventive treatment such as Revolution (selamectin).
Monthly use of Revolution treats and controls scabies (S. scabiei) infestations in dogs, and in puppies as young as 6 weeks. Revolution is suitable for a single treatment in rabbits over 8 weeks of age. Ask your veterinarian about Revolution.