Echinococcus is a tapeworm that lives in the small intestines of dogs, cats and foxes which are the final host of the adult worm. They do not cause severe clinical problems and that is why it is difficult to know your pet has them. But they can infect other animals including humans.
In humans they from cysts in the liver, brain and other internal organs which can grow enormously that, if not treated, can cause illness and even death.
This is the reason for deworming your pet every 3 - 6 months depending of the environment of your pet. In Spain it is obligatory once a year (Campaña Echinococcus) and is recorded on your pets microchip registration. For some countries it is obligatory to treat your pet against the echinococcus specifically within a certain time limit before traveling. For the UK it is 24 - 48 hours before your embarcation time. For Sweden, Norway and Finland it is within 10 days. In Norway the treatment needs to be repeated after 10 days.
Fleas are actually insects and are important because of their direct effect on animals (and people) and because of the diseases they can transmit.
The most common flea is Ctenocephalides felis - the domestic cat flea, but it actually prefers dogs. Other fleas are Ctenocephalides canis - the common dog flea that also feeds on humans and other animals; Pulex irritans - the human flea, believed to be extinct; Echinophaga gallinacea - the tropical henflea and Xenopsylla cheopis - the rat flea that transmitted bubonic plague (Black Death) in the Middle Ages.
Fleas are medium brown to mahogany clolour (black when just hatched) and have a laterally flattened body. They have 3 pairs of legs of which the last pair is greatly enlarged allowing them to jump great heights (upto 30 cm!). Both female and male fleas feed on blood. Two days after they mate the female starts laying eggs (30-50 a day) and she can live several months. Along with the eggs she deposits large amounts of feces (fleadirt) on which the larvae that hatch from the eggs can feed. The larvae pass through several phases of development in about a week and then spin a coccoon called a pupa. This pupa can be found deep in carpets, crevices etc. After a week the pupa has developped into an adult and hatches when it senses vibrations, warmth or carbon monoxide (life). The pupa can remain dormant in a cold quiet environment for over a year.
Flea bites cause slight to severe itching on pets and some even develop a flea allergy to the saliva or feces of the fleas. Fleas can transmit several diseases: Tapeworm (Dipylidium caninum; Haemobartonella (redbloodcell parasite); Plague caused by Yersinia pestis; Typhus caused by Rickettsia typhi and Tularemia caused by Francisella tularensis.
Due to the large amount of eggs produced and the long survival time of the pupa it is essential to prevent the fleas from mating on your pet by applying a product that will kill the fleas.
However if there is already a flea infestation it is necessary to treat the environment to kill the eggs and pupas before they hatch. It is important to treat every animal in the household.
Puppies and kittens can be born with roundworms and hookworms. The larvae of the worms migrate through the uterus and into the developing fetus. They can also be infected with these larvae through their mothers milk. After birth these worms will mature in the intestinal tract and produce eggs that will hatch to larvae (L1). These larvae penetrate through the intestinal wall into the abdominal cavity and find their way into the organs ie the liver and end up in the bloodstream to be pumped into the lungs where they change to L2 larvae. These are coughed up and swalllowed to end up in the intestines where they mature to adult worms. The eggs will be in your pets stool lying on the grass where another pet can lick or eat this grass and become infected.
To prevent these problems it is important to deworm your dog or cat regularly. A fecal flotation can be performed on your pets stools to reveal eggs and other parasites like Giardia and Coccidiosis.
The Companion Animal Parasite Counsil (CAPC) recommends the following deworming scheme:
Puppies and kittens: Initiate treatment at 2 weeks, repeat at 4, 6 and 8 weeks of age and then every month until 6 months of age.
Nursing bitches and queens: Deworm during her heat before mating and then deworm along with the puppies or kittens.
Adult dogs: Depending on the environment and activity of your dog deworming should be done every 3 or 6 months and is obligatory once a year. For cats it depends on whether they hunt or not and if they have contact with other cats or young childeren.
Newly aquired animals: deworm immediately and repeat after 10 days.