Now that we are in the middle of Spring, you can expect ticks and fleas to become more and more common. These tiny insects attach themselves to your dog and feed off its blood, which can lead to serious health problems. We spoke to our expert vet, Dr Ockert Botha, to bring you all the ins and outs.
How did my dog get ticks and fleas?
Most urban dogs pick up ticks and fleas when they come into contact or shared an environment with an infested animal – usually stray dogs or cats, or a neighbour’s pet. Adult fleas and ticks take this opportunity to jump from one animal to the other.
If your dog spends a lot of time outdoors, it could also have picked up these bugs from running through tall grasses or playing in the bushes.
What should I look our for?
Identifying whether your dog has fleas is quite easy. Look out for flea droppings, which will show up as little brown specks on your dogs fur. Little white specks indicate flea eggs. Your dog will also scratch and lick itself constantly.
Another tell tale sign is scabbing on the skin or hotspots.
Ticks can often be felt when patting your dog. They will usually attach themselves near the head, neck, ears or paws. Fleas tend to concentrate at the base of the tail or at the bottom of the stomach.
What are the risks?
When fleas feed, they inject their saliva into your dog’s blood stream. This can cause an allergic reaction and is actually quite common. Even light infestations can lead to your dog developing dermatitis – a condition where your dog loses its hair due to excessive scratching and biting.
Because fleas can drink up to 15 times their own weight in blood, a heavy infestation can lead to your pet developing anaemia. This is especially dangerous in puppies, as they can easily succumb to this condition.
Ticks carry their own risks and can transmit up to 15 dangerous diseases to your dog, including Billiary and Ehrlichiosis.
And the treatment?
There are a range of treatment options that are readily available at a pet store or your local supermarket. These include insecticides and insect repellents in the form of shampoos, medicated flea collars, powders, and even oral medications. It is best to consult your veterinarian for his advice on an integrated flea and tick control programme that best suits your pet.
Because most of the above treatments contain powerful chemicals, they should not be used on puppies without consulting your vet.