The Lyme Disease Lowdown:

It gets easy to forget that some of the infectious diseases out there that can affect us, can also affect our pets. One that has significant potential for disease in both humans and our furry family members is lyme disease. Many people are aware of the acute and chronic illnesses associated with lyme disease in people, but lyme disease can cause these issues in pets too! Here’s a rundown on lyme disease, and why it’s so important to keep your pets safe from external parasites like ticks.

What is lyme disease?

Lyme disease is the term given to the illness caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. This bacteria is carried and transferred between infected animals and people by ticks, primarily of the species Ixodes. This bacteria can cause clinical disease in both people and our pets. Lyme disease can occasionally affect cats, but dogs tend to be more commonly affected.

What are the clinical signs of lyme disease?

Dogs may experience a host of signs including joint swelling/pain, lameness (limping), fever, decreased appetite, swollen lymph nodes and lethargy. In severe cases, the kidneys, nervous system, and heart may be affected. Similar signs can develop in humans. Some may be infected after a tick bite, but remain asymptomatic. Humans may also develop classic “bullseye” like red skin lesions, which we do not see in infected pets.

What type of environment do ticks like?

Ticks are a parasite that likes to be opportunistic. Unlike fleas, ticks aren’t major “jumpers”. Rather, ticks like to wait on vegetation and latch on to a warm body walking by. Often ticks like to make a home in tall grass, heavily wooded areas, thick brush and bushes. Ticks prefer a very moderate climate, and are most active in the spring/summer – though ticks have been found year round in the UK.

For up to date information on tick distribution, check out the following resources:

ESCCAP (European Scientific Council for Companion Animal Parasites) Ectoparasite Control:

UK Government Tick Surveillance Scheme:

MSD Animal Health Hub Tick Distribution Map:

Can my pet be tested for lyme disease?

There are antibody tests available for lyme disease from your vet. Typically antibodies will be detectable 4-6 weeks after tick exposure. This is fairly consistent for many tick borne diseases, including Babesiosis, Ehrlichia, and Anaplasma. This in conjunction with classic clinical signs help vets confirm a diagnosis of lyme disease.

What is the treatment for infected pets?

In milder cases, treatment with antibiotics for a minimum of 4 weeks may be enough to treat lyme disease. In more advanced cases, hospitalization with treatments like intravenous fluid support and pain medications/anti-inflammatories are needed. These pets may experience chronic residual clinical signs like joint pain, and in rare cases lyme disease may be fatal.

How can I help prevent lyme disease in my pets?

The good news is that there are steps you can take to help prevent lyme disease from infecting your pet. Prevention, as we say, is the best medicine. There are currently many effective and safe parasite preventatives on the market that protect against ticks. These include both topical (spot on) formulations and oral flavored chewables, typically intended for monthly administration. Preventatives that cover ticks are paired with flea prevention, HOWEVER not all products that prevent fleas ALSO prevent ticks, so it’s essential to check the product label.

Most tick borne diseases take over 24 hours to transmit any diseases via a bite, so checking your pets (and yourself) for ticks after coming in from outdoors is a huge help! This means that any ticks can be promptly removed and decrease the likelihood of disease transmission. Checking once daily particularly in high risk areas/during peak season is a good habit to get into.

Quick note on tick removal:

There are “right” and “wrong” ways to remove a tick! You must grab all the way down where the head/mouth are attached to your pet and grip firmly to ensure removal of the entire tick. Using an object like tweezers or a forcep will provide a good grasp. Failure to remove this may allow more time for disease transmission, and more likely leave an opportunity for significant local irritation/infection.

There is a lyme disease vaccine available for dogs in high risk areas, and whether this is appropriate for your pup should always be discussed with a vet.

Final tips:

  • Keep your pet on regular monthly parasite prevention.
  • Know your area! Some places are more likely to see higher tick numbers.
  • Check your pet for ticks regularly.
  • Have questions? Check with a vet!

Dr. Kirsten Ronngren, DVM MRCVS

Click here to start your VetBox journey and keep your pets safe from ticks.

Puppies And Vaccinations – The Basics

Puppies – Vaccinations

The Basics for Pet Owners

There are fewer things that bring more smiles to the vet clinic than an owner bringing in their new happy puppy (or puppies)! Adding a new pet to your family can be an exciting chapter, but there can also be a lot of questions too. We wish we could sit down with every family that comes in to go over some truly important puppy topics, but unfortunately that reality is not often possible. Because of this having resources for owners to refer back to is both important and helpful. We’ve included our top tips and considerations for vaccinations for new puppy owners in 2021.

Determining what vaccinations are appropriate for your puppy should absolutely be a conversation with the vet.

This will be based on a list of core vaccines (vaccinations recommended for all puppies) then potential additional vaccinations based on your puppies lifestyle.

When should puppies get vaccinations?

Vaccines are typically started between 6-8 weeks of age and initial boosters may be continued until around 12-16 weeks of age.

Whether boosters are required and the duration of protection varies with each type of vaccine.

  • Core vaccinations recommended for all dogs:
    • Distemper virus:
      • This deadly virus can affect the respiratory, neurologic, and gastrointestinal systems in dogs. It is spread quickly by respiratory secretions or bodily fluids dog to dog, and can also be spread by contaminated environments/equipment. Signs may include sneezing/coughing, ocular or nasal discharge, vomiting/diarrhea, and potentially neurologic changes such as seizures or muscle tremors. Infections with this virus can cause long term neurological effects in those that survive, but the disease is commonly fatal. Vaccinations for distemper are safe and effective.
    • Parvovirus:
      • Similar to distemper virus, parvo virus is also HIGHLY contagious and can be fatal. Parvo is spread in pet faeces, and can cause severe bloody vomiting and diarrhea, and can damage the pets immune system. It can also be spread by contaminated environment/equipment. Treatment is solely supportive care/hospitalization as there is no “cure” for parvo. Again, vaccinations for parvo are safe and effective and should also be given to all dogs.
    • Adenovirus (canine infectious hepatitis):
      • This virus is less commonly seen than parvo and distemper, however is also easily spread by bodily fluid and can cause severe disease in the liver, lungs, eyes, etc. of dogs. Adenovirus is commonly found in a combination vaccination with parvovirus and distemper.
      • Note: Distemper virus, parvovirus, and adenovirus typically come in a three way combination vaccination.
        • Start at 6-8 weeks, boost 3-4 weeks later (must be older than 10 weeks at 2nd vaccination). At this point the vaccine is good for 1 year, then given every 3 years.
        • There are also some newer vaccinations on the market that require different booster schedules, so these times may vary.
    • Leptospirosis:
      • Leptospirosis is a bacteria spread in the urine of mammals and can cause organ failure, particularly to the kidneys and sometimes liver. This disease is also what we call zoonotic, meaning people can also be affected by the bacteria (Weil’s disease). If an animal’s urine that is infected with lepto comes into contact with the mucus membranes (eyes, nose, mouth, etc) of another animal, they are at risk of infection. Symptoms are often general such as lethargy, vomiting, and decreased appetite among others. Animals that spend time outdoors around other dogs or wildlife, as well as animals that spend time around water (particularly standing water like puddles and streams) should absolutely be vaccinated for leptospirosis. Cases are now even becoming more common just in common pet relief areas such as those in flat and rental properties, so this is becoming a consideration as well.
      • Typically started around 8 weeks of age, and can be started at the same time as with DHP. Requires two boosters initially given 3-4 weeks apart, then is given annually.
      • Note: Many companies make a vaccination that contains distemper, adenovirus, parvovirus AND leptospirosis.
  • Non-core vaccinations based on risk/lifestyle:
    • Rabies virus:
      • Rabies is not currently present in the UK (fortunately). That being said, pets travelling outside of the UK should absolutely be vaccinated for rabies as this virus has no cure, is harbored in many species, and is fatal to animals AND humans. Rabies is required for international travel, and research should be done prior to animal transport for each country’s regulations.
      • Can be given no earlier than 12 weeks. No initial boosters needed. First rabies is good for 1 year, then given every 3 years.
    • Kennel cough/canine infectious respiratory disease complex:
      • While kennel cough is typically associated with the respiratory bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica, in reality it is a combination of insults of both viral and bacterial origin. Often a virus causes irritation of the respiratory tract, and then “normal” bacteria present will overgrow and cause clinical signs. A hacking loud cough is the most common sign, and is often spread rapidly in close quarters via respiratory fluids hence the name “kennel cough”. That being said, kennel cough can be spread by any dog to dog contact or exchange of saliva, so pets that are often exposed to other dogs should be vaccinated.
      • Can be given as early as 6-8 weeks, no initial boosters needed. Given annually.

Key messages:

  • Your vet can help you determine which vaccinations are appropriate for your puppy! Our goals are to pick the most appropriate course based on current veterinary standards as well as your pets exposure/risk level.
  • Each vaccination works differently and may require different numbers of boosters.

For the most up to date vaccination guidelines, check out the following resources:

Dr. Kirsten Ronngren, DVM MRCVS

Start your VetBox journey today and get your pets fleas, ticks and worm treatments covered.

Kittens and vaccinations – The basics:

Kittens – Vaccinations

The Basics for Pet Owners

A new kitten is one of the most exciting yet unpredictable additions to a household. It can be an exciting time for families bringing a new kitten home, but it can also be overwhelming too! We wish we had an hour to sit down with every family that comes in to go over some truly important kitten topics, but unfortunately that reality is not often possible. Because of this, having resources for owners to read and keep on hand has become a must. We’ve included our top tips and considerations for vaccinations in this post for new kitten owners.

Determining what vaccinations are appropriate for your kitten should absolutely be a conversation with the vet.

This will be based on a list of core vaccines (vaccinations recommended for all kittens) then potential additional vaccinations based on your kitten’s lifestyle.

What is the difference between a high risk vs. low risk cat?

Risk level helps determine which vaccinations are appropriate or recommended for cats. WSAVA (World Small Animal Veterinary Association) designate some high risk cats as those with more potential exposure to infectious diseases. This includes cats that frequent catteries/boarding facilities, cats in multicat households, and cats that are indoor/outdoor (exposed to other cats and wildlife). Low risk cats are those who are indoor only and the sole pet in the house. This might also include households with multiple cats that are all indoor only.  
Vaccines are typically started between 6-8 weeks of age and initial boosters may be continued until around 12-16 weeks of age.

Whether boosters are required and the duration of protection varies with each type of vaccine.

  • Core vaccinations (recommended for all cats):
    • Feline panleukopenia (parvovirus):
      • While similar to parvo in dogs, feline panleukopenia is its own virus responsible for serious clinical disease in cats. Spread via bodily fluids, the virus can affect the intestinal tract and immune system. Signs can include respiratory problems, lethargy, diarrhea, and decreased appetite among others. It is highly contagious and may be fatal in severe cases.
    • Feline herpes virus (FHV-1):
      • FHV-1 is the agent also known as feline rhinotracheitis virus, a common cause of upper respiratory symptoms in cats. These may include conjunctivitis, corneal ulcers, sneezing, ocular discharge and nasal discharge. In severe cases, secondary bacterial infection may arise. Interestingly, the majority of cats have been exposed to FHV-1 and can remain positive throughout their lifetime. The virus is similar to herpes virus in other species, where once infected the virus remains and can become latent. This means it hides within the body and may sporadically cause clinical signs (respiratory), particularly during times of stress.
    • Feline calicivirus:
      • Calicivirus is an ugly virus also spread readily from cat to cat by bodily fluids. It is most commonly transmitted by respiratory secretions, particularly sneezing cats kept in small less ventilated areas. Because of this, kittens and cats in rescues, pet stores, catteries are at increased risk. Clinical signs often begin as respiratory in origin, but characteristic oral ulcerations may arise and cause severe pain. Signs may also develop in other body systems and the virus can be fatal.    
      • Note: Vaccinations for panleukopenia, herpes virus, and calicivirus are typically given together as a combination “upper respiratory” vaccination.
      • This combination vaccination is often started around 8 weeks of age, then boostered 3-4 weeks later. High risk cats will then need a booster annually, whereas low risk cats may only require a booster every 3 years.
  • Non-core vaccinations based on risk/lifestyle:
    • Rabies virus:
      • Rabies is not currently present in the UK (fortunately). That being said, pets travelling outside of the UK should absolutely be vaccinated for rabies as this virus has no cure, is harboured in many species, and is fatal to animals and humans. Rabies is required for international travel, and research should be done prior to animal transport for each country’s regulations.
      • Can be given no earlier than 12 weeks. No initial boosters needed. Next rabies is due 1 year later, then is given every 3 years.
    • Feline leukemia virus:
      • FeLV is a virus that affects the immune system and is often fatal. The virus makes cats susceptible to a host of other diseases including blood disorders and cancer. It is often transmitted by biting/fighting with another cat that is FeLV positive, but can be spread by most bodily fluids as well as in utero from mother to baby. Typically cats are tested for the disease prior to vaccination to ensure they are negative.
      • Requires two initial boosters given 3-4 weeks apart, then given annually to every 2 years. Can be started as early as 8 weeks of age.

Key messages:

  • Your vet can help you determine which vaccinations are appropriate for your kitten. Our goals are to pick the most appropriate course based on current veterinary standards as well as your pets exposure/risk level.
  • Each vaccination works differently and may require different numbers of boosters.

For the most up to date vaccination guidelines, check out the following resources:

Dr. Kirsten Ronngren, DVM MRCVS

Ready to take the fuss out off pet healthcare? Get your VetBox subscription today and relax.

I wormed my pet, but I’m still seeing worms?

Reasons why you might see worms despite worming

You gave your pet their regular wormer, so everything is good right? You took your dog out and there it was. The worm. Your cat came to curl up next to you and there was a little grain of rice and it was moving. We get questions about sources of parasites in pets regularly. Occasionally we’ll get questions from pet owners who are using parasite prevention but unfortunately still find worms from their pet. Albeit less common, we encourage people to have faith and go over these reasons why you might be seeing breakthrough parasites in your pet.

They didn’t actually eat the wormer.

  • Some pet parents put their wormer tablet directly into their pet’s food and walk away to do other things, especially dog owners. This works great for good eaters like my goofy golden retrievers, but the pickier pets will sneak around that tablet like they’re Gordon Ramsey judging a food competition. You need to ensure your pet consumes the wormer. We know this may seem silly but pets can find all sorts of ways to get around eating pills, even when hidden in the best treats!

Your pet is exposed to heavier levels of parasites on a regular basis.

  • Pets that are often in the following scenarios have a much higher potential of parasite exposure/infection: dog parks, dog daycares, group play boarding facilities, training events, flat/rental properties with common pet relief areas, areas with heavy wildlife populations (many can carry parasites), neighborhoods with high numbers of outdoor cats, pets that like to hunt (cats for rodents/birds) etc. More animal exposure means more opportunities for potential infection.

You are not worming regularly.

  • Worming 1-2 times per year is not enough to keep parasites away. Many of our common parasites have life cycles that are completed in as little as a few weeks up to 2-3 months. Because of this, wormers are often recommended to be administered monthly to every 3 months to break the life cycle of the parasite if your pet has become infected. Checking with a vet to ensure you are using the right product for your pet and are treating frequently enough is a must!

The wormer you are using does not cover the type of parasite your pet contracted.

  • There is not ONE wormer that protects or treats ALL types of parasites. We wish there was, however this makes appropriate and targeted worming for your pets lifestyle all the more important. Most of the common wormers on the market will prevent the major culprits including roundworms and hookworms, however not all products will also cover additional parasites like tapeworm or lungworms. Again, being aware of WHAT your wormer covers is important and can be discussed with a vet. There are some parasites out there that are not covered by common wormers and require a more specific treatment from a vet. For this reason, faecal testing is essential so we know what parasite is actually present. Side note – don’t forget many intestinal parasites are microscopic, so regular worming along with faecal checks at the vet are recommended.
  • Common scenario: Pet owner giving cat a wormer that only treats roundworms and hookworms and cat becomes infected with tapeworms (contracted from eating a dead rodent), much to the owners dismay and frustration. The first assumption is the product does not work, when in reality the product is not a drug that treats tapeworms!

Your wormer works great, but your pet was infected in between doses.

  • It’s important to make a distinction between wormers vs. flea/tick preventatives. Wormers are not preventing EXPOSURE to the parasite, but rather stopping the life cycle/killing off the parasite upon administration. Wormers do not remain in the system persay between doses to prevent infection like flea and tick monthly preventatives do. The hope is that regular targeted worming stops development of specific parasites and is given at appropriate intervals so that these parasites do not have the opportunity to grow into adults then shed eggs to infect other pets. Rarely pets, particularly those with higher exposure risk, will manage to pass an adult in between doses which may indicate a need for a change in worming frequency. Also note, pets may pass dead worms as well.

These are important considerations we like to cover with pet owners when they ask questions about wormers, their efficacy, and how they work. The wormers used in the veterinary community are extremely safe and effective products. We would say by far the most common reasons for people to have issues is they don’t realize what their wormer actually protects against or are not giving it at appropriate intervals! That’s what vets are here for, to be the reliable source of this information and make guided recommendations for what is best for your pet based on their needs.

Dr. Kirsten Ronngren, DVM MRCVS

Ready to tackle worms once and for all? Get started here with your VetBox subscription.

The Top 5 Reasons You Are Still Seeing Fleas

Fleas, fleas, fleas and how to treat them

Treating monthly and still seeing fleas? This might be why…

You’ve been doing the right thing by treating your pet with a preventative treatment on the correct schedule but hang on, you’ve just seen a flea. How has this happened? At VetBox we get this question often and we know it can be frustrating. Rest assured you are doing the right thing by treating your pet, but here are our top 5 most common reasons you may still be finding fleas on your pet and in your home. 

  1. You need to treat all pets in the home.

To successfully get rid of a flea infestation, ALL pets in the home need to be treated, not just the pet who seems to be affected. Some people may see fleas on multiple pets, but more often there is one primary offender who seems to be the flea favourite. This is why it’s vital that all your pets are treated with an appropriate flea treatment each month. 

  1. You need to treat them for long enough. 

It’s not uncommon for pet parents to be concerned when fleas aren’t gone IMMEDIATELY. It’s completely understandable as fleas are 1) unappealing and 2) irritating to you and your pets. That being said, consistent treatment is typically needed for three consecutive months to have the best chance beating a flea infestation. This has to do with the flea life cycle itself. Fleas are incredibly  persistent. They are fantastic at laying eggs that turn into larvae that are especially hard to get rid of. These live in your carpet, bedding, furniture, etc. and hatch into adults in the weeks to come. One female flea can lay 2,000 eggs in her lifetime. In moderate climates (not too hot and not often below freezing), our pets need to be treated with a preventative monthly all year round to break the flea cycle and keep them away. 

  1. You need to use an effective product. 

Not all products are right for every pet. For starters, it’s important that we as vets remind owners to ensure the product they are planning to use is made for either a dog or a cat. There are many products made for dogs that are very toxic to cats, so ensure you have the right product for the right species. Do not split a dose between pets, this will not provide the right amount of treatment to do its job. Some pets may do very well with one type of flea treatment whereas others may need a different product. Not all flea treatments contain the same drug and not all pets respond to every drug the same. You may be one of the fortunate ones that can use an over-the-counter treatment successfully, however some pets need a slightly stronger prescription treatment from their veterinarian. Unfortunately in our veterinary experience we have not found “natural products” to yield much success.

Important note: When using topical or spot-on treatments, you should not bathe your pet or let them swim within 5-7 days of application. These treatments rely on a normal intact fatty acid layer in the skin to be absorbed and spread. Bathing or swimming can disrupt this layer, or even just wash the product off before it is absorbed!

  1. You might have missed a month….or two…..ok nine…

The majority of flea treatments are created to be administered once every 4 weeks. Missing the due date by a few days here or there is typically ok, however if you miss a treatment for your pet and get to weeks 6, 7, or 8 on from the last treatment your pet is no longer protected. One tip is putting a reminder on your phone each month to give flea/wormer treatments so you don’t forget. VetBox subscriptions go one better because you get that friendly reminder from the team each month when your box arrives. Plus treats…bonus!

  1. You need to appropriately treat YOUR HOME!

This may be one of the biggest issues that we when people are having trouble with fleas at home. Owners get halfway there by diligently treating their pets, but forget an equally important part – cleaning their home itself. As mentioned above, flea eggs are produced by the hundreds and are fabulous at shedding off your pet into the house. These will mature into larvae that hide and become dormant in places like bedding, carpet, and furniture. Eventually if not also battled, they will become adults in weeks/months ready to start the life cycle again. We strongly encourage vacuuming all surfaces, washing bedding/blankets both human and pet, in hot water, and considering a safe environmental spray for carpeted areas and upholstery that will inhibit flea eggs and larvae. Often one round of deep cleaning is enough, but repeating these steps may be needed. A quick note, these sprays are made for your home NOT your pet! Keeping pets confined to an area where you have not sprayed while treated areas dry for a few hours is typically recommended. Following manufacturer guidelines and vet guidance is always best. 

A few final tips…

Virbac Animal Health make an effective and safe spray for your home that is widely available including on Amazon, called Indorex Spray. This is a product we often recommend to pet owners as an option in severe home infestations. *Reminder: Please follow product recommendations for application in your home. This is not a pet product!*

No one likes fleas and we want them off your pets and out of your home. Once again the best bet for success is responsible and regular monthly preventative treatments to keep us all happy and flea free. 

Dr. Kirsten Ronngren, DVM – MRCVS

Vet at VetBox

Get your VetBox subscription and start beating fleas today.

Ticks 101 and how to treat them

Peaches and Pebbles, two lovely cats with a VetBox subscription

A crash course for pet owners all about ticks

Just like their flea counterparts, ticks are a parasite that are not only excellent at making us all cringe, but also at carrying and spreading diseases. These diseases are not only able to infect your pet, they can also infect us! Ticks are commonly referred to as vectors. Vectors are creatures that are required for the life cycle and spread of an infectious disease. In this post we go into the details and tips that pet owners should know about ticks and their presence in the UK.

The different kinds of ticks

Ticks come in many shapes and sizes, and there are multiple species known to bite in order to transfer infectious diseases. There are four stages of the tick life cycle: egg, larvae, nymph and adult. People are typically familiar with enlarged adult ticks, meaning the ones that have latched onto their pet (or themselves) and taken a ‘blood meal’. You may also see adults that have yet to take a blood meal, otherwise know as a nymph tick (immature adult). Ticks do not typically “jump” like we see fleas do, rather they hover on grass or brush and wait for you or your pet to pass by so they can latch on. They don’t always attach immediately, which is helpful as it gives  us more time to be able to remove them prior to biting. Areas of your pet commonly affected are the face, ears, armpits (axilla), groin (inguinal), and in between the toes (interdigital space). These spots have thinner skin and less hair, meaning easier access and attachment for the tick. That being said, you can still find a tick anywhere. 


Ticks can cause Lyme disease

Once a tick has attached itself to you or your pet, it can take variable amounts of time to spread infectious diseases depending on the disease type. One of the most common tick borne diseases that pet owners and the public are familiar with is Lyme disease. Lyme disease is caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi and spread by the Ixodes tick. This can cause potentially severe clinical signs in both pets and humans including fever, joint pain and swelling, lymph node swelling, and lethargy. Lyme disease can be managed/treated, however does have potential for chronic problems. 

Borrelia isn’t the only offender in this category, here are a few other tick borne diseases that are present and/or have the potential to emerge in the UK:

  • Babesia spp. – Infects red blood cells and can cause anemia, spread by the brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus)
  • Ehrlichia spp. – Can cause low blood cell counts and kidney problems, spread by the brown dog tick 
  • Anaplasma spp. – Similar to Ehrlichia
  • Rickettsial spp. – The agent causing Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in humans/pets
  • Acanthocheilonema (dipetalonema) spp.
  • Flavivirus 
  • Francisella spp. – The agent known to cause tularemia
  • Coxiella spp. – The agent responsible for Q fever
  • Hepatozoon and Cytauxzoon spp.

Essential tick prevention treatments

Tick borne diseases have the potential to elicit serious consequences for both pets and their humans. Because of this, vets strongly encourage tick prevention in animals that spend time outdoors. Ticks love areas with high grass, brush, heavily wooded areas, bushes, etc. as this allows for easy access to attach to passersby. Animals that spend significant amounts of time on walking paths, hiking, and in areas like those mentioned above are at higher risk. Indoor only cats and dogs that spend most of their time inside are at lower risk. Ticks prefer warmer more moderate weather like fleas, so spring and summer are times of year that pets are at higher risk. Areas that experience a consistent freeze in the winter months do typically get a break from tick activity, but those that experience moderate weather consistently like the UK should mean  monthly tick prevention year round.

Top tips to keep you and your pet free of ticks: 

  • Use monthly tick prevention, such as the one VetBox provides
  • If in any doubt, speak with a vet to determine your risk level, and what preventatives are best for your pet VetBox subscribers get free access to veterinary support
  • Keep tabs on tick distribution in your area. Maps are available through the ESCCAP website as well as here
  • Check yourself and your pets when you come back from activity in at-risk outdoor areas 
  • If you find a tick on your pet, ask your vet about removal and if testing is needed for infectious diseases

Ready to tick ticks off your list? VetBox subscriptions include monthly tick treatments as standard. Get started now.

Dr. Kirsten Ronngren, DVM – MRCVS

Fleas 101 and how to treat them

How to treat your pets for fleas

A Crash Course for Pet Owners

“I’ve never seen a flea. My pet doesn’t have fleas.” As vets we’ve heard this many times and wish it was true. Unfortunately that’s simply not the case and fleas are one of our most common external parasites in dog and cat patients. All pet owners who have experienced them will agree that live fleas are gross, but what many don’t realise is there are other risks in addition to fleas’ ability to cause discomfort. That’s why consistent flea prevention is so important and this post will cover all the main health risks that fleas pose for your pets, and also to you/your family. 


First let’s cover the big one, the major reason why many owners end up at the vets. Your dog or cat has live fleas and they are ITCHY! Flea bites are uncomfortable and cause itchiness in our furry family members but also the rest of the family. Fleas aren’t picky about where their meal comes from (blood) and they will bite any warm body near them, meaning you and your family are fair game for these parasites. Animals will obsessively lick, bite, chew and can even become extremely stressed when infested with fleas. Not to mention they’ll be keeping you up at night doing so. 

Now that we’ve covered the most common reason owners reach for flea prevention,  it’s even more important we touch on the things people may not know about that can create an even bigger problem.

Flea Allergy Dermatitis

 A step above your average itchy flea bite is referred to as flea allergy dermatitis (FAD). Some pets have an immune hypersensitivity or allergy to flea saliva, and when bitten a more severe local reaction will occur. Affected animals will lick and chew themselves in response to a bite to the point of hair loss, severe redness and even secondary bacterial or yeast infections. These pets absolutely should be treated regularly for fleas to decrease the chances of experiencing these types of outbreaks, as they are often painful. Pets that suffer from FAD often need to seek veterinary care for topical and/or oral medications like antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, sprays, and shampoos to help treat the skin. 

Environmental flea infestation

Just because you can’t see fleas doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Live adult fleas are small and quick! Adults can be seen with the naked eye, are dark brown in color and only a few millimeters in length. They like to jump around but also burrow deep within the fur to plan their next “blood meal” (bite). Eggs however, can’t be seen so easily and are produced in large quantities which can remain on your pet, or are shed into the environment. These eggs mature into larvae which are both persistent and resistant and  love to hide in carpet, bedding, furniture, etc. Adults will emerge weeks down the road and begin the life cycle again. As vets we often find live fleas or flea poo, little brown specks on the skin, on many pets when owners insist their pet does not have fleas. Fleas prefer moderate weather, however it takes several days of sub-freezing temperatures for the flea life cycle to be interrupted. This means that in a moderate climate like the UK, year round prevention is necessary. It’s also common for vets to recommend prevention year round regardless of weather because of other parasites that are also prevented by flea treatments, such as ticks. Due to their short life cycle, affinity for moderate temperatures and ability to persist in the environment – regular flea prevention is all the more important. 

Flea borne diseases

If you aren’t digusted enough already, unfortunately there’s more. Fleas can carry other diseases that can cause your pet (or you) to become ill. Historically, fleas have been the culprit to harbouring and spreading the bacterias guilty of causing plague and typhus in humans. Additionally, fleas are also the transmitter of the bacteria Bartonella, better known as cat scratch fever. Bartonella may cause infected cats to become unwell and can be spread to humans by a cat scratch. Mycoplasma haemophilus is another bacteria spread through fleas, and is a major concern for cats that spend time outdoors. This nasty bacteria can cause cats’ red blood cells to be recognised as foreign and destroyed, leading to potentially life threatening anaemia. Fleas also commonly carry the egg of the tapeworm Dipylidium, which if swallowed by your pet or humans will lead to development of the tapeworm along the intestinal tract.

Conclusions

When it comes down to it, not only are fleas annoying, they also pose a health risk to you and your pets. For this reason, vets encourage pet owners to be proactive in preventing fleas year round. There are many products on the market which can be overwhelming for owners. Which is right for your pet? Why are there so many? Why do I need a prescription when I can buy some over the counter? In general preventative treatments  containing a medication are going to be the most effective. Unfortunately “all natural products” will not achieve the results we desire in most cases. Not all products are created equal, and there is not one product on the market that prevents/treats all types of parasites. Make sure you consult a vet about which preventative is best for your pet to keep them parasite free.

VetBox subscriptions are tailored to your pet by our team of qualified vets and the treatments are sent automatically in the post each month. Fill out our quick online sign-up form to find the best treatment for your dog or cat. For pets with specific requirements, our vets can tailor their subscription even further so please get in touch to discuss. 

Dr. Kirsten Ronngren, DVM – MRCVS

Vet at VetBox

Keeping Your Pet (and You) Free of Worms

Keep your pets worm free with your VetBox subscription

Common Gastrointestinal Parasites of Dogs and Cats

It’s probably safe to say that every pet owner wants their pet to be worm free. When I say worms, I’m talking about gastrointestinal (GI) parasites. Those pesky worms that we think only puppies and kittens get can actually infect pets of all ages. There are several types of parasites that infect our furry family members, but in this post we’re going to focus on a few common GI parasites you should be aware of as a pet owner. 

Roundworms 

Among our friends in the GI parasite family, roundworms are extremely common among dogs and cats. They are one of the most widely recognised, resembling spaghetti on their best days. Species causing infection are usually Toxocara, though others exist in the environment as well. But where do these parasites come from? Transmission between pets is typically faecal-oral, meaning your dog/cat gets faecal material from an infected animal in their mouth and swallows the eggs. You may think, “well my dog doesn’t eat other dogs’ poo” and that may be true. We have to remember that contact with faeces can be in many forms such as sniffing another animal’s rear end in the park, or even just stepping in soil that had faeces in it and then your dog licks its paws to clean them. The egg grows into an adult worm along the gut and then sheds eggs to be passed out in your pets faeces. Not very nice! Now let’s think about the sheer number of eggs that are passed. We’re talking thousands of parasite eggs from one adult worm, with the worst part being these eggs are microscopic. You won’t be able to see these with the naked eye. Not all pets will pass adult worms into the faeces, meaning that your pet could be infected and you may not even realise. This can end up being a problem for your pet, you and your family (we’ll talk more about this in our “Zoonosis” blog), and other pets that could become infected. Puppies and kittens can also be infected directly in the uterus from their mother, making roundworms in our young babies common and important to address. In addition to the roundworm issue being disgusting, it can cause medical issues for your pet including diarrhoea, vomiting, weight loss, and potentially even intestinal blockage in severe cases. Roundworms are found far and wide including places like the park, the beach, walking paths; anywhere that dogs might poo. It is important we recognise this is a risk and make sure we are deworming our pets regularly with the direction of a licensed vet.

Hookworms

Similar to roundworms, hookworms are also in the same family, however they contain a hook like mouth on the adult worm that allows them to behave a little more aggressively. Hookworms are also spread via the faecal-oral route. Signs of infection may include diarrhea, but in severe cases we may also see blood in the stool or anemia (low red blood cell count) due to bleeding in the intestinal tract from the parasite. Both hookworms and roundworms may also try to migrate  to other organs and cause serious disease. Hookworms in particular are known to cause conditions in humans called visceral larval migrans (migration and trauma to other organs) and cutaneous larval migrans (migration to worms under the skin). This makes deworming your pet even more essential for you both.

Tapeworms

There are thousands of parasites that can infect our pets, but I think one that people recognise above others are tapeworms. Tapeworms are commonly spotted by owners with or without clinical signs like diarrhea. Vets get many calls about “small worms coming out of the patient’s behind”. These little worms resemble moving grains of rice, and are the major indicator of tapeworm infestation. The most common origin of tapeworm infestation is actually a flea infestation. Fleas harbour the immature form of the tapeworm Dipyllidium, and when pets groom/lick themselves and swallow adult fleas, they also consume the tapeworm egg. The worm then matures in the gut and both segments of the adult worm as well as eggs are passed in the faeces. There are other common species of tapeworms, primarily of the Taenia family, that our pets contract by consuming what is called the intermediate host. This is a host that helps the parasite complete its life cycle and mature, such as a rabbit or rodent. 

Some other common gastrointestinal parasites include coccidia, giardia, whipworms, and lungworms (these are actively passed through faeces even though they reside in the lung). I could write pages and pages on these, however I think that it’s important pet owners are familiar with some of the most common to help them be proactive when it comes to prevention. Prevention is always better than treatment if we can help it.

Top Five Parasite Tips for Pet Owners

  1. Make sure a vet is involved in deciding which wormer is best for your pet.
  2. There is not ONE dewormer that treats ALL parasites, meaning there is not a one shot treatment for all species. This makes #1 all the more important. 
  3. Most intestinal parasites are NOT visible to the naked eye and may or may NOT cause clinical signs like diarrhea. It is important that we regularly deworm our pets AND regularly have a faecal sample checked by a vet to make sure we aren’t missing low grade infections. 
  4. Prevention is typically cheaper and safer than treatment after a problem is detected. 
  5. HUMANS can also become infected and ill from parasites that infect our pets, making awareness and treatment essential to all of our health. 

Dr. Kirsten Ronngren, DVM – MRCVS

Want to get started on your worm free journey? Get your first VetBox subscription today.

How COVID Has Impacted Our Dogs and Cats

Pets during the pandemic and how we can care for them

The rise of the Pandemic Pet

It goes without saying that COVID has impacted the world beyond everyone’s expectations. However our pets are a group that have been easy to forget and the pandemic has had a big impact on them too. While our daily routines and activities have been shuffled, so have theirs. In this post we take a look at some considerations for our furry family members during this pandemic from a vet’s perspective.


You’re spending a lot more time at home, isn’t that good?

This is great in many scenarios, it means your pet gets more time with you! At VetBox many of our pets have been thrilled to have us at home more. It means we’ve been playing a lot more fetch and going for many more walks. Some of us are getting a lot more exercise, which includes our pets! While this can be a good thing, it’s important to realise that this can also have some less desirable effects.

We may see more cases of separation anxiety

Pets, particularly dogs, that have gotten used to their humans being home all day have been showing increased signs of anxiety when the owners do have to leave the house. Having a plan for re-adjusting your dog to alone time once your schedule starts to change again will be an important planning tip for pet parents as 2021 progresses. Gradual transitions in routine are best to decrease anxiety. Ensuring they have had appropriate attention and exercise prior to leaving the house is helpful. Doing your best to maintain some of the good habits you have developed while being home more will make it an easier transition for your pup!

Cats love you, but might not be thrilled you’re around so much

Some cats have been happy to have their humans around more, with some enjoying a warm body to cuddle. It’s important to remember however that cats are creatures that are VERY easily stressed. Even the smallest changes in routine can cause significant anxiety.

 

You may not realise your cat is stressed, as they mask this well and often display behaviours owners don’t associate with stress. More obvious behaviours may be urinating outside the litter tray or outward displays of displeasure (scratching or biting), but things as simple as hiding more, avoiding you, decreased food consumption, or increased altercations with housemates can be a sign of stress.

Being sure to provide enrichment and stress relief for cats is just as important as dogs, so here are our top tips:

  • Puzzle feeders allow cats to harness their inner hunter and work for their food.
  • Automated toys can provide entertainment to your kitty if you are swamped with work or home school.
  • Make sure you cats have a “safe space” where they can be alone and feel safe (i.e. a gated off room, an area with a bed and scratching post, etc.) so they have a quiet place to decompress.
  • Using anti-anxiety nutraceuticals may benefit your cat. We’re fans of the pheromone spray “Feliway” which neutralises scents that cause stress to cats. This comes in a spray, a plug-in diffuser, or a wipe and is safe to use anywhere. Feliway can be purchased online at retailers like Amazon

People are bringing home new puppies and kittens in high numbers

Many homes are adopting new pets because they have more time to care for them during the pandemic. This is fantastic as rescues/shelters have been able to take in and adopt out more animals, but also means that vet clinics have seen another upswing in appointments.

Due to vet clinics  incredibly busy during COVID, it can be challenging to get non-emergency appointments. This has improved with time, but still remains a challenge. Veterinary professionals are doing their best to accommodate everyone but it can cause frustration.

Levels of infectious disease are a concern

Many areas have seen outbreaks of infectious diseases such as distemper virus and parvovirus because people bringing home new puppies are not taking  them for vaccination boosters at the right time (or at all). This may be because people are finding it harder to get  a vet appointment, people are being encouraged to stay home for lockdowns and because people are not informed as to the repercussions of missing these crucial juvenile vaccinations. 

A lack of vaccinations  also means pandemic puppies are at risk of inappropriate socialisation. For more information on socialisation and behaviour, our Puppies series iscoming soon

The pandemic has given us a great chance to spend lots more time with our pets. It’s essential to remember we need to help them adjust as we do too, so we all can get through these strange times together.

VetBox top tip: Be sure to get your puppy and kitten their booster vaccinations and parasite preventatives on time to avoid serious diseases. Plan ahead when considering timing of appointments to give yourself, your pet, and your vet the best chances to work out a plan. To tick one thing off the list, VetBox delivers a monthly box of parasite treatments tailored to your pet. Get started now.

Dr. Kirsten Ronngren, DVM MRCVS

Vet at VetBox