Preventing measures go a long way in combating the parasites that pets inevitably come into contact with, both from other animals and the environment.

Checking the symptoms:

Fleas – Small insects with piercing mouthparts. Feed on animal blood. Spread by contact with infested animals, the symptoms are skin irritation, skin biting, excessive scratching, allergic reactions and in extreme cases, death from secondary infections.

Heartworm – Parasitic roundworms (nematodes) that live in the arteries of the lungs and in the heart. The symptoms are difficulty breathing when exercising, persistent cough, vomiting, reluctance to move, reduced appetite and weight loss.

Intestinal worms – Segmented parasitic worms. Spread by eating infected meat and offal, the symptoms are dull coat, swollen belly, pale gums, licking around the anus, dragging the bottom, vomiting and spaghetti-like eggs in the stools.

Ticks – Small arachnid with piercing mouthparts. Injects host with poison, affecting muscles and respiratory system. The symptoms are unsteady gait, fever, weakness, muscle aches and loss of appetite.

Viruses – Distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, feline enteritis, feline immunodeficiency virus (ADIS), feline leukaemia virus. The symptoms are decreased appetite, vomiting, swollen belly, soft or liquid stools, or blood in stools and whining in discomfort.

For fleas:

· Groom your pet regularly with a flea comb.

· A flea collar may help, but fleas are becoming more resistant to the chemicals they contain.

· Use an insect growth regulator they are non-toxic and relatively new form of flea control and works by transmitting hormones onto the flea eggs and larvae, helping to reduce fleas as long as all pets in the household are treated with the same product. They are available from your veterinarian and come in a variety of forms, including aerosols that are sprayed directly onto your pet and your furnishings, and as tablets that you give your pet with its food.

· Add some brewer's yeast – available in health food stores and pharmacies – to your pet's food. It contains substances that produce a skin odour known to deter fleas. Use two tablespoons yeast per 4 kilograms of the animal's body weight and add to moist food.

· Wash your pet's bedding, fabric toys or rugs every week in the hottest water the fabric can stand and leave to dry in the sun. Launder loose covers on furniture regularly as well any rugs and curtains.

· Vacuum carpets, curtains and upholstered furniture once a week. Sprinkle a layer of table salt over your upholstery and carpets; leave overnight before vacuuming.

For heartworm:

· This disease is spread to dogs and cats by mosquitoes, so it is important to eliminate areas of standing water that can serve as breeding grounds.

· Keep your pets indoors as much as possible during times when mosquitoes are most active.

For intestinal worms:

· Make sure children wash their hands after playing in a sandpit or with a pet. They can pick up roundworm larvae from both sources.

· Fleas are a source of tapeworm infection. If your pet has a flea problem, tackle it first it will help to prevent tapeworm infestation.

· Do not let your pet eat rodents. Rats and mice transmit tapeworm.

· If your pet shows any symptoms, ask your vet to provide a safe, effective de-worming medicine.

For ticks:

· Ticks occur in urban areas as well as in the countryside. Make sure you check your pet regularly.

· Seek immediate veterinary help if you sense your pet is in danger. It may have difficulty breathing and be unsteady on its legs.

· Check for tiny lumps by rubbing gently back and forth through your pet's fur, feeling the whole body.

· Use a tick hook or tweezers to remove a tick. Fingers are the least efficient tool as you are likely to squeeze its body and cause more poison to be injected. Do not worry if the head is left in the skin it will die and eventually fall out.

For viruses:

· Most vaccine manufacturers recommend giving dogs and cats a temporary vaccination at six to eight weeks of age, followed by adult or full vaccination at twelve to fourteen weeks.

· Annual boosters are the subject of some controversy, so you should seek advice from your vet or from a holistic practitioner about their necessity for your pets.

Always seek advice from your vet or holistic practitioner before attempting any self-assessment or medication on your pet. Thank you for reading this article.