Tick off disease spreading parasites

ticks and fleas

We are surrounded by great swathes of farm and woodland, which means we have no shortage of places to walk our dogs.  Unfortunately, it’s also a prime area for ticks.

These little parasites will climb to the top of a long blade of grass and wait for any passing mammal to latch onto. It’s a behaviour known as questing and the new spring growth provides plenty of launching pads for them.

Ticks are the size of a sesame seed normally but once completely engorged, they grow to the size and shape of a coffee bean.

They pass disease from one host to another which could result in serious ramifications like Lyme Disease, which is a bacteria that affects muscle and nerve cells.

After taking your dog for a walk, it’s a good practice to check them over.  Move your hands over their body to check for any unusual small bumps, particularly around their ears, head, neck, groin, armpits and feet.  Ticks can go inside ears, so if your dog is shaking their head a lot, it’s worth having a careful look.

If you spot a tick, don’t pull it straight off. It’s painful for your dog and the embedded mouthparts can be left behind. If ticks are burnt with a flame or covered in Vaseline to suffocate them, they can become stressed and may regurgitate their meal back into their host along with any diseases.

Use fine-tipped tweezers or a specially designed tick removal tool to slowly detach them.

While the chance of disease is relatively low it’s worth keeping an eye out for the following symptoms if you or your dog is bitten. An initial ‘bulls eye’ rash around the bite, intermittent lameness of your pet, fever, lethargy and headaches have been reported in humans.

There are many products on the market to prevent ticks: from spot-on and sprays, or special collars impregnated with substances that kill ticks as soon as they attempt to feed.

While there is less risk of disease from fleas, they can still cause major problems for your pet and your family.  Even the most spotless homes can become infested and the best way to halt their spread is by regularly using flea treatment on your pets.

Fleas can survive without a host for many months, so clean bedding regularly and vacuum furniture, floors and skirting boards to destroy fleas at each stage of their lifecycle. Throw away the dust bag from your vacuum after each use.

Flea bites can make your pet uncomfortable but some pets can be hypersensitive to flea saliva and suffer an allergic reaction.  Flea larvae can become infected with tapeworm eggs so if your pet has fleas you should also make sure your pet is treated for worms too.

Only give your pet flea treatment that has been recommended for them because some dog flea treatments contain permethrin that is safe for dogs but toxic to cats.  Maintain treatment all year round, as fleas aren’t only active in summer and can live year round in centrally heated homes.  It is estimated that 95 percent of flea eggs, larvae and pupae live in the environment and not on your pet

Be on the lookout for signs that your pet may have fleas. Are they scratching? Are there areas of hair loss, bald or sore patches, spots or redness and irritation?  Do you have any unaccounted for insect bites yourself?

If you answered yes to any of these questions then groom your pet with a fine-tooth comb held over a white surface so any fleas or droppings will be deposited on the surface. Add a few drops of water and if the droppings turn reddish brown it’s likely your pet has fleas.

Each flea can live from 14 days to one year and a female can lay up to 50 eggs each day, that’s 1,500 in a lifetime so it’s easy to see how an infestation can get out of hand.

The best way to stop them taking over your house is to stop them hitching a ride on your pet.

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