Pet owners with compromised immune systems can have fatal complications to blood-borne infections from parasites such as fleas – and nearly one in five with a cat or dog are unaware of this, according to new research.
The study of 1,000 pet owners with weakened immune systems conducted by ITCHpet.com reveals this lack of awareness is most prevalent among the over 55s, where the figure rises to one in three (34%).
Experts are warning that parasites pose a threat to the nation’s immunosuppressed more than ever this summer, as flea numbers are set to soar due to a dangerous cocktail of humid weather, heavy rains and a fall in people using preventative treatments on their cats and dogs during lockdown.
“Nationally, our research tells us that one in 10 owners of cats and dogs found it more difficult to treat their pets for parasites during covid-19,” said Zoe Costigan, resident vet at pet wellbeing specialist ITCH.
“Concerningly, this figure jumped to 41% when we delved more closely into the habits of pet owners whose immune defences are more fragile.”
Nearly a half [45%] of respondents said they did not feel comfortable or safe going out to the shop or vets to purchase treatment during lockdown.
According to the study, at least 72 per cent said they missed at least one preventative treatment between March and June during lockdown, while a third (33%) admitted they had forgone three consecutive months: March, April and May.
For those who went without treating their pet during lockdown, over a quarter were under the impression that their pet didn’t need it as they were self-isolating.
“As fleas can also harbour in the home, it’s important to continue regular preventative treatment for your pets,” Zoe said.
“Also, because fleas have four main stages in their life cycle – adult, egg, larva, and pupa – the total flea life cycle can range from a couple weeks to several months, depending on environmental conditions, so missing the odd treatment really does matter.”
One in six (16%) of those surveyed said they were not aware that fleas could pose a health risk to humans.
Zoe warns that, as the rules continue to relax and people start enjoying the outdoors more, they need to be more vigilant than ever and ensure they are treating their pets properly for parasites.