Dogs are an important member of your family and like anyone else in your household, it’s imperative that you maintain a healthy lifestyle for your canine companions.
One of the external and sometimes internal problems dogs can face throughout its lifetime are parasites.
When the warm weather brings gardens and bush back to full bloom, the flea and tick season also ignites. Adding to the problem are the summer rains. This is when these annoying parasites are joined by mosquitoes, which can pass on other diseases to dogs.
No matter how well you look after your dog, it’s a fact that dogs will have a small or large infestation of ticks or fleas at some point in its lifetime. And the longer your dog’s coat unkempt, the more prone it is to become a carrier. In fact, on rare occasions, parasites can infect and transmit diseases to people and be life-threatening to dogs and your other household pets if the condition is left untreated.
Fortunately, your local veterinarian has access to a variety of products and medicines when such an outbreak occurs. But your dog will still need to be carefully monitored and managed. This includes looking for any changes in your dog’s appetite, temperament, signs of lethargy and its intake of water.
We always recommend that you have your dog tested for parasites with your local vet each year — including heartworm and tapeworm infestations.
So what are parasites?
A parasite is an organism which lives in or on another host organism (such as your dog, cat or other members of your household) to acquire its nourishment.
Ticks are small external parasites that feed on the blood of a host. In Australia, they’re found in tall grass, woodpiles or bushland — even in your backyard. They move onto a host organism by attaching itself to the skin so they can feed on the host’s blood. A telltale sign of a tick infestation is swelling in the joints, swollen lymph nodes, loss of appetite and lethargy.
Contact your vet if your dog has an infestation of ticks. If you choose to remove a tick, only use tweezers or a vet-recommended tick removal tool. Grab the tick’s head and gently pull; removing all trace of it. Never use Vaseline, alcohol or a hot match.
Mosquitoes are not only annoying parasites; they can be dangerous to dogs as they can transmit heartworm larvae. A common sign of a mosquito bite is skin inflammation around the eyes, nose, ears, legs and rump in dogs.
Fleas are parasitic, wingless insects with mouthparts that pierce the skin to suck the blood from the host. They thrive in humid conditions and are often found in sand, cracks, and bedding, anywhere where it’s dark. They also reproduce their eggs after feeding.
A telltale sign of a flea infestation is your dog’s intense scratching, the development of a swollen lump and other secondary infections. Infested dogs should also be checked for tapeworm as fleas can transmit this parasite into your dog’s bloodstream through their bite.
As a caring dog owner, you should regularly check for fleas and ticks by parting the fur, especially around the ears, neck, feet and rump. Quite often, fleas will leave minuscule faeces, adding to the dog’s discomfort. After the fleas have been found, you should continue with the vet-recommended treatment every fortnight for up to six weeks.
Speak to your vet about the range of flea powder or droplets that are available for your breed of dog. Your vet may recommend oral tablets and other medicinal solutions to further treat the flea infestation.
Did you know?
- Fleas can lay up to 50 eggs in one day
- Nourished fleas can live for over a year
After you’ve discovered the fleas, this is the one time you should not play ‘host’ in your home! Here are some cleaning tips!
- Make sure you painstakingly clean your dog’s bedding and its general area
- Vacuum the carpets and discard the bag as it will contain fleas, larvae, and eggs. If you’re unable to do this, apply a surface spray into the vacuum cleaning bag. Make sure that you throw away the bag in a tightly sealed garbage bag, since it will contain fleas and eggs, or use a surface
- Spray your entire home or use a ‘flea bomb’ in case the insects have attached themselves to another host carrier in your home. Do ensure that the entire household including your children and pets are not exposed to the spray and repeat the process again within a week (as eggs can still survive the initial treatment)
- Consider hiring a qualified pest controller if the outbreak is extensive. Your vet will be able to recommend a suitable operator in your local area