The vast majority of pet parents have or had a bad experience dealing with fleas & ticks. For this reason, it is very important to keep ourselves informed when we encounter these little parasites.
Even though they can bring quite a few difficulties to pet parents and their paws, fleas & ticks are actually interesting creatures! As you go, it’s natural to feel a little bit itchy—but try not to scratch!
1. Fleas. Everything you need to know about them!
Dog fleas aka Ctenocephalides canis!
How do I check my dog for fleas? Even if your dog may be infested with fleas , they are not always easy to be found.
One of the best ways to check is to look after flea dirt (actually flea faeces) in your dog`s fur. Fleas are small parasites that feed with the blood of any warm-blood host that they can find. Fleas carry themselves on household pets, rodents and any other wildlife animals.When fleas find a host, they start feeding themselves by biting the host which often results in painful, itchy, red bumps. A flea can consume up to 15 times its body weight in blood daily!
Their saliva can also cause serious flea allergy dermatitis in pets, subject that will be covered in a future post. Guests can be bitten and may take fleas back to their homes.
On the right you can see the flea life cycle: Fleas can be involved in the spread of many diseases and can serve as intermediate hosts for tapeworms (as l mentioned in the previous post about deworming prevention). Keep in mind that a dog flea is represents a high risk factor because it can spread Dipylidium caninum
2. Ticks. Everything you need to know about them!
There are two major types of ticks:
- Ixodidae (hard ticks) and Argasidae (soft ticks). Both ixodid and argasid ticks have four lifecycle stages: egg, larva, nymph, and adult.Speciesof ticks:
• Ixodes ricinus (most commonly found on dogs in the UK).
• Ixodes hexagonus (most commonly found on dogs in the UK). Known as: hedgehog tick.
• Ixodes canisuga. Known as the British dog or fox tick.
• Other Ixodes spp.: Ixodes frontalis (tick of birds), Ixodes trianguliceps (vole or shrew tick).
• Dermacentor reticulatus (dog tick).
• Haemaphysalis punctata. Mostly found in the marshlands of Kent and Essex. Recently reported in West Hampshire.
• Rhipicephalus sanguineus (dog tick). This tick also uses hosts from species such as cats, foxes and cattle but the dog is its preferred host. Ticks are also parasites and so always require a host to feed and mate for breeding.
Ticks can be carriers for other diseases and pass it between hosts ( including humans).
Varying in shapes, colours and sizes, ticks are generally oval, flat and small: they can grow from the size of a sesame seed when unfed, until a size of a coffee bean when completely engorged with blood. Each stage spans over approx. 8-12 months. A whole life cycle can last approx. 2-3 years.
How can l know if my dog has ticks?
• Most of the ticks are big enough to be spotted! All you have to do is to run your hands over your dog’s body when you get back from outside and check for any lumps or bumps.
• A normal tick will feel like a small bump, particularly around their head, ears inside and outside, gums, under collar, groin area, axilles, between toes and under the tail. Some ticks are so small and their bite so painless that they may go unnoticed.
• There are more than 600 species of hard ticks (part of the Ixodidae family). The adult tick has eight legs and a mouth part through which the tick attaches and sucks blood from their host until it is completely filled with blood. This blood meal allows the female tick to produce eggs and continue the life cycle of the tick.
What diseases/ illnesses can be seen with tick bites?
• Anemia. This can occur due to ticks feeding on their hosts’ lymph and blood. Only a massive infestation can result in this.
• Irritation and infection. Ticks create a pimple type lump with inflammation, pain and itching in the attachment area, on their host`s skin.
• Tick paralysis. This is caused by a neurotoxin produced by several species of female ticks.
• Lyme Disease (Borreliosis);
• Tick fever;
• Hepatozoonosis.You have to know that people can catch Lyme disease from ticks, just as dogs can.
In the United Kingdom ticks can be carriers for the Lyme disease. This disease is caused by a group of spirochaetal bacteria species known as Borrelia burgdorferi (also mentioned in the previous post). These bacteria can be carried in the blood of mamals (mice, squirrels, foxes) and birds.
For example, if a tick bites an animal/bird that has this bacteria, then the tick will also become infected and a carrier. If an infected tick bites a human (remember that ticks are feeding with blood), then the infection can be passed onto the human.
Babesiosis is extremely rare in the UK due to the tick responsible for spreading it only being found around the southern regions of England and mainland Europe. If your dog is suffering from babesiosis you may notice they start being depressed, have pale gums, a swollen abdomen and a fever. They may also lose their appetite and their skin may become yellow in colour.
What can you do if you find a tick on your dog?
First of all, it is very important to know how to remove ticks properly. An incorrect removal can cause more problems than you can even imagine.
If some parts from a tick mouth remain in your dogs’ skin, then an abscess can form, which can lead to a serious skin infection. Never compress the ticks` abdomen because you can cause introducing infected contents from the tick`s stomach into your dogs’ bloodstream.
Do not use vaseline, butter, paraffin or alcohol. Do not try to burn it with a lighter/match or cigarette.
The O’Tom tick remover is favoured by Veterinary and Medical professionals as the appropriate tool to remove ticks safely. The correct way to remove ticks:
If you have removed a tick recently and your dog does become ill, take him to your Veterinary Surgeon. Most of the diseases that a tick can trasmit can be treated successfully if they are caught early and treatment is administered in due time! Take care of your loved one!
Flea & Tick Prevention
✔ Always check with your Veterinarian for the most suitable product for your dog.
✔ Check your dog daily very carefully for any ticks or fleas.
✔ Keep your grass from the garden cut short. If you walk your dog in a park/ forest, check him for any ticks when you arrive at home.
✔ If you live in an area with ticks, it’s a good idea to use a tick treatment that will either repel ticks or kill them if they attach. Spot-on treatments, chewable tablets and collars are available and it’s best to consult your vet about which is most suitable for your dog.
✔ Keep a record of the above-mentioned! You can use a normal calendar and just circle the day for specific medication administration. It is very important to take care of these aspects if you want to have a healthy dog.
✔ Keep your outdoor shoes only in special places and keep them clean. You can carry fleas on the shoes as well as on the clothes, when you come from outside. Don`t let your dog play with your shoes.
✔ Prompt removal of the tick can help decrease the chance of infection.
⚠ Always ask for veterinary advice! Keep yourself informed in order to keep your paws healthy!