December is a really good time to revisit an issue that can be of great importance to your pet: summer parasites.
Parasites like ticks and fleas are present year-round in Australia, however, the summer months are the main season for dogs and cats to have issues with these. These tiny pests are an annoying nuisance at best, but they can actually be potentially fatal to dogs and cats. As such, the risks to your pet from parasite need to be mitigated.
What you need to Know about Fleas
Fleas are very common in dogs and cats, and these furry family members are the perfect hosts for fleas. Fleas can’t fly. Instead, they jump surprising distances as well as passing via direct contact. They are extremely effective breeders, and flea eggs can hatch a very long time after being laid.
Found all over the world, fleas are wingless parasites. They feed on the blood of all kinds of animals as well as humans if they make contact. A pet with fleas will scratch intensely and likely be very irritable.
A flea bite causes intense itching. Scratching flea bites can create secondary infections in the skin. But fleas do much more than just make you or your pet itch: they can transfer diseases between their hosts. Fleas transmit tapeworm. Fleas are also infamously responsible for transmitting bubonic plague from rats to humans. They are also partially responsible for transmitting the deadly disease typhus.
Treat Fido and Fluffy every month to prevent flea infestation. The best products are transdermal ointments that are applied to the back of the neck.
It’s much easier to prevent fleas than to eliminate them.
If you do find fleas on your pet, on their bedding, or in your home, your pet needs to be treated fortnightly with a vet-supplied product.
Treatments for active flea infestation may include shampoos, sprays, collars, rinses, powders, tablets, ointments, and combing. It is critical to treat your pet for tapeworm at the same time.
If your pet has fleas, you need to clean your house: vacuum the carpets, and throw away the vacuum cleaner bag if present. Wash pet bedding and human linen in hot water. Consider having a professional pest controller treat the home.
What you need to know about Ticks
Ticks are present year-round in Australia, but tick season is worst in the humid summer months. The Australian paralysis tick is very dangerous, feeding on the blood of both animals and humans. It injects neurotoxins into its host as it feeds on their blood. These neurotoxins cause paralysis.
Natural hosts for paralysis ticks in Australia are marsupials and reptiles however pets and livestock animals are also victims of ticks. Humans can also be affected; while Lyme Disease has not been formally identified in Australia as yet, Australian ticks present other risks to humans.
Tick paralysis can be fatal.
The signs and symptoms of tick bite in pets includes:
- Weakness in the back legs
- Loss of coordination
- Excessive salivation
- Difficult or loud breathing
- Strange sounding bark
- Coughing or retching
- Appetite loss
Caring for your pet:
- Don’t allow your pet into tick habitats – avoid summer dog walking in the bush, scrub, long grass, and in compost areas.
- Check your pet for ticks EVERY DAY. Feel through the coat from head to tail. Ticks feel like lumps, as do the craters in the skin they leave behind. Pay special attention to your pet’s face, under his chin, neck, chest, and ears, lips, and in all skin folds, including the armpits, between the toes, and under the tail. Your dog grooming professional should also do this.
- Often only a single tick is present. Some pets, however, can be infested with ticks.
- If you do find a tick, remove it immediately.
- Take your pet to the vet as soon as possible if you find a tick or he demonstrates signs of a tick bite.
Prevention is better than attempting a cure – and some tick bites can be fatal. Attention and prevention may well save your pet’s life.