IMAGE: The Bark
It’s that time of year when we need to revisit the issue of summer parasites that may affect your pet. Though they are present all year round, the summer months in Australia are prime season for dogs (and other furry or fluffy pets) having issues with fleas and ticks. These tiny pests can be an annoying nuisance at best or potentially fatal to dogs and cats at worst.
Fleas are wingless parasites are found all over the world. They feed on the blood of their host – and animals of all kinds as well as humans present them a tasty treat. Fleas can transfer diseases between hosts, and they are infamous for transmitting bubonic plague from rodents to humans elsewhere in the world. They also (along with lice and ticks) transmit the deadly disease typhus.
Fleas can’t fly, but they can jump surprising distances. They breed at extremely high levels, and flea eggs remain dormant; they can hatch long periods of time after being laid.
Fleas are very common in Australian dogs and cats. Dogs and cats are the perfect hosts for fleas, and if they have fleas they will scratch intensely and be very irritable. The bite of a flea causes intense itching. When your pet scratches their flea bites, they can create secondary infections in the skin.
Dogs and cats should be treated every month to prevent flea infestation; if infestation is present, they need to be treated every two weeks with a vet product. Treatment for fleas may include shampoos, rinses, sprays, collars, powders, tablets, ointments, and combing. It is also crucial to treat your pet for tapeworm at the same time, as fleas transmit tapeworm.
You should also clean your house, vacuum the carpets, and throw away the vacuum cleaner bag. Wash pet bedding and human bedding in hot water. Consider having a professional pest controller treat the home. Fleas are much easier to prevent than to eliminate.
The Australian paralysis tick is particularly dangerous. It feeds on the blood of both animals and humans, and causes paralysis in its host by injecting toxins into as it feeds on their blood. Natural hosts for paralysis ticks are reptiles and marsupials, though pets and livestock animals are also victims of ticks. Ticks occur all year, but tick season is worst in the hot and humid summer months.
Tick paralysis can be fatal if not identified and treated promptly.
The signs of ticks in your pet include:
• Loss of coordination
• Weakness in the back legs
• Difficult or loud breathing
• Excessive salivation
• Coughing or retching
• Strange sounding bark
• Appetite loss
Looking after your pet:
• Check your pet for ticks EVERY DAY. Do this by using your eyes and your fingertips to feel through the coat from head to tail. Ticks (or the craters they leave behind) feel like lumps. Pay special attention to the pet’s face, under their chin, neck, chest, and ears. Also search the lips and in all skin folds, including the armpits, between the toes, and under the tail.
• While many times only a single tick is present, some pets can be infested with ticks.
• Avoid allowing your pet into tick habitats wherever possible – including dog walking in bush, scrub, long grass, and compost areas.
• If you do find a tick, remove it immediately. Take your pet to the vet as soon as possible.
Make prevention of parasites a priority all year, but especially during the hot summer months. It may save your pet’s life.