Parasites

Tape worm

Tapeworm can conjure up many horrific images of an infestation, but out of the intestinal worms, this is the one least likely to cause direct health issues.

There are several types of tapeworm but the most common species of tape worm is Dipylidium Caninum and they require an intermediate host in which to develop such as fleas. They reside in the intestines of the effected animal and compete with infected animal for nutrients of ingested food, they don’t usually harm the infected animal as a rule and there may not be noticeable illness in your pet. However some symptoms of tapeworm infestation can be shown as an upset stomach, poor skin and coat condition, diet change and the most obvious the presence 1/4 inch, whitish worms that may expand and contract in your pet's faeces. Also there is the presence of wriggling; egg-filled segments on the pet’s hindquarters, in his faeces, on furniture, in the carpet or on clothing and you may find that your pet’s anal area maybe irritated making your pet scoot (when your pet drags his bottom along the floor.)

The tapeworm consists of a head and a long flat body made up of segments. This body can be several feet, if not more in length. Each Segments, has the ability to reproduce and are passed in the animal's faeces, leaving the head still attached to the animal's intestinal lining, where it produces new segments.

Round Worm

The most common roundworm is called Toxocara Canis and like tapeworm it lives in the intestines of the infected animal, consuming partially congested food. An infestation can be serious in large numbers, this worm can cause weight loss, a pot-bellied appearance, weakness, decreased appetite and vomiting or diarrhoea will be observed on occasion. Young animals will sometimes die with serious roundworm infections often due to obstruction of the bowel due to the mass of roundworms.

These worms do not need a host to spread like the tapeworm; a female roundworm can lay hundreds of thousands of eggs each day and these can be passed into the faeces of the animal where the eggs develop into larvae. Another animal eats the larvae and the life cycle begins all over again. Also in some cases in female animals roundworms can lay dormant in the muscle tissue and are activated during pregnancy. They can then pass across the placenta infecting unborn young, resulting in the baby animals being born with roundworms.

The roundworm is pinkie-white in appearance and can appear like thin elastic bands, up to several inches in length. If your animal has a heavily infested, you may be able to see the roundworm in faeces or vomit or wriggling from the anal passage.

NOTE
Skunks are more sensitive to roundworm than most animals and need to be wormed every month or so throughout their lives. Even if there is no evidence of your skunk having worms or you think your skunk is worm free, your skunk should still be wormed.
Ask your vet for advice on worming and don’t use pet shop products, which may be ineffective or unsafe. Panacur which comes in different preparations is commonly used.
Do NOT use wormers containing Piperazine Citrate. Erliworm is a common brand containing Piperazine Citrate.

TICKS AND FLEAS

Although ticks are commonly thought of as insects, they are actually arachnids like scorpions, spiders and mites. There are nearly 1000 species of Ticks and these have been divided into two groups - the hard shell tick and the soft shell tick.

Ticks wait for a Host from the tips of grasses, shrubs or vegetation and are drawn to the host’s body heat. When an animal or person brush by they quickly let go of the vegetation and climb onto the host. Once on the host they feed and increase in size, their colour darkens and they are easier to detect on the skin or under a pets fur, some ticks though can live up to a year without a meal and usually have a 3 year life cycle. It is also important for the Female tick to feed to have the strength to lay eggs and then she has the ability to lay thousands of eggs in her lifetime.

FLEAS

Fleas are small wingless jumping insects that feed of the blood of mammals, not only do they feed off mammals they also can lay 1000’s of eggs in your carpet. The larvae hatch and burry themselves in the carpet, upholstery and bedding. They then develop into pupae, remaining dormant for many months. When they sense warmth and vibration, the adult fleas emerge and jump onto a passing to start the life cycle again.

NOTE
If your animal has fleas, whether it is a cat, dog or skunk, you can pretty much guarantee it will have tapeworm, as fleas are the intermediate host for tapeworm.
Ticks and fleas can cause irritation and skin problems and also a severe infestation can cause anaemia and so the animal will need to be treated and seen by a vet. If your animal has only a few ticks and fleas on him/her then you can use Frontline spray or drops, this you can buy from your vet or on-line. Use half the dosage you would a cat. Note: Like with any product use with Caution, if your skunk reacts to any products discontinue use, this products are not licenced for skunks.

Parasites
Tick

Round Worm

Tape Worm

Flea