Monday, 11 February 2008

'P' is for Dog Parasites

Hi there, today I am going to talk about some dog parasites. In particular dog fleas, worms, and ticks.

Dog Fleas

So how do you know if your dog has fleas?

The obvious signs are your dog scratching and biting at its skin.
In severe infestations you will probably see the fleas. There may also be signs of flea allergy, which is an inflammation of the skin.
Dog fleas are very good at hiding themselves in your dog's fur even when it is short.

If you suspect that your dog has fleas it is easily checked.
Stand your dog on sheets of newspaper and comb through the hair close to the skin with a flea comb. This is a very fine-toothed comb that you can buy in a pet shop.

You probably won't see any fleas.
What you are looking for is flea dirt - little black specks.
These will appear on the comb and will also fall onto the newspaper.
You may also see specks of blood from the flea bites.

So what can you do?

Dog fleas are very easy to treat. You can buy flea treatments from pet shops, but a better option is to get something more effective from your vet, especially if there is a bad infestation.
Frontline Spot On is often recommended. It is applied directly to the skin between the shoulder blades, where your dog can't get at it.
There is a different form of Frontline according to age and weight of your dog.
Remember to wear gloves. You are applying a pesticide which can be absorbed through our skin.

If you have a pregnant female or she is feeding puppies do not use any kind of flea treatment without consulting your vet first.

I only ever treat my dogs for fleas if I see signs, or if they have been in a high-risk area.
Because you are introducing a poison into your dog, I don't believe in using flea treatments as a routine preventative measure.

Dog Worms

There are a variety of intestinal worms.
The 2 you are likely to come across in the UK are roundworm and tapeworm.

If you take your dog abroad it may come into contact with heartworm.
The pet passport scheme requires that your dog is wormed.

If your dog has worms you will see them in the dog's faeces.

They are easily treated with wormer. The most effective forms can be obtained from your vet.
Dog wormers are in either tablet or liquid form. They can be added to food.

Puppies need to be wormed. Your vet will have leaflets on the most recent advice.


Nasty little blighters! They attach themselves to your dog' skin and also to yours!
They suck blood. You do not feel anything. A close visual check is needed.
Ticks can be very small and barely visible. As they take up blood they have a sac which swells up. This can be as large as your fingernail.

Your dog is most likely to pick up ticks in long grass and bracken.

They can be removed safely and easily with a special tool.
There are two different types which I use.

One is a clamp. You attach it to the head of the tick close to your dog's skin. Then slowly rotate it anti-clockwise. Be very careful not to leave anything in the skin. Infection can set in.
Ticks have circular jaws, which is why you 'unscrew' them.

The other type of tick remover which I use resembles a bent crowbar. You slide the slot around the tick's head and twist. Again be careful to completely remove the tick.

After removal it is a good idea to bathe the area with salt-water.

It is important to monitor the area for a week. If there is any sign of infection or redness go straight to a vet. (If it was on you go straight to your doctor.)

I need to mention Lyme's Disease. This comes from deer ticks and not from sheep ticks.
If the area you are in has deer herds be extra vigilant.
Lyme's disease is a very serious debilitating condition which can be permanent. It is easily treated with anti-biotics if caught in time.

You will probably hear of other ways of removing ticks, such as smearing them with vaseline, or touching them with a lit cigarette. I do not recommend any of these methods, because they can traumatise the tick and cause it to release toxins into the blood stream.

The tools that I talked about are small and inexpensive. You can buy them from a pet shop or from your vet.

Here follows a cautionary tale !
My male greyhound had a tick very close to his private parts. I used the clamp and twisted very gently without result. Then I gave a slight tug. Not good. I had caught some of my dog's delicate skin in the clamp. Gentlemen will perfectly understand when I say that I had a very irate dog on my hands!

To see what products are available and to get an idea about prices visit this link.

That's all for now, Ti

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