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Ticks & Fleas in Pets

Ticks and fleas are a global problem with pets. Almost every dog and cat will become infested with ticks and fleas at some point during their life and often it is a recurring situation. The problem also becomes severe during summers and monsoon in Kathmandu. Ticks are brown blood sucking parasites attached to your pet’s skin whereas fleas are tiny almost invisible ectoparasite causing excessive itching and annoyance in your pet. They make life miserable for your pet with a vicious cycle of biting and scratching.

What is a tick?
Ticks are not insects but belong to the spider family. Sometimes too tiny to be seen, ticks attach to pets and feed until they are engorged with blood. Ticks cause direct problems for your pets by their presence, local irritation and local infections. Worse still, all life stages of ticks carry diseases that can cause serious health problems both for pets and humans. Ticks can live for several years with life cycles between 2-6 years. Each developmental stage of a tick’s life requires a blood meal in order to reach the next stage.

What a tick bite can do?
If your pet is bitten by a tick, the results can be fatal. Tick does not only suck blood from your pet but also transmits horrible diseases like ehrlicosis, bebasiosis and anaplasmosis. If you have been in areas where ticks are a problem and your dog becomes ill, do not forget to mention to your vet that your pet has recently been exposed to ticks.

Fleas are small insects and its infestation is one of the most common health problems in dogs and cats. Fleas are by far the most common and able to live and breed on both dogs and cats as well as bite humans and other small pets.

Where do ticks and fleas come from?
Pets are likely to pick up ticks and fleas in your garden, parks and from kennels or burrows. Even if your dog stays home, fleas and ticks are canny creatures and have ways of making it into your home and onto your pets despite preventions. All it takes is a few fleas to get established in your yard to set up a full-scale infestation of your yard, your pet, and your home.

How ticks come onto your pet?
Ticks are bad news. They transmit several diseases that can cause severe illness and even death in both dogs and human. So, keeping your dog tick-free is a top priority. Huge numbers of tick eggs hatch each spring and the young ticks climb onto grass and other vegetation. Their sticky shells help them to cling onto passing animals, including your adventurous pet dog.
Ticks quickly climb down the hair, attach to the skin, and begin to suck blood, only dropping off hours or days later when they are engorged. In the meantime, any microorganisms that were hitching a ride inside this insect traveler, are transmitted to your dog through the tick’s mouth.

Prevention against ticks and fleas
Use a tick preventive during the tick season: spring and summer months (April to September). Several products in the market kill both fleas and ticks e.g. Frontline Plus. You can apply these products monthly to the skin at the back of your dog’s neck. Tick and flea collars are also available at local pet shops and department stores. Ask your veterinarian to recommend the most effective product for your dog.

Examine your dog for ticks daily during tick season. If you suspect he has been romping in a tick-infested area, examine him for ticks immediately. Be sure to check inside and behind his ears and around his eyes, all favourite tick hiding places.

How to remove ticks?

  • Use a pair of tweezers to grasp the head of the tick where it attaches to the skin.
  • Wear gloves if you plan to use your fingers to remove the tick.
  • Pull on the tick gently and steadily. If you yank the tick away from your dog too quickly, you’ll leave part of the tick’s mouth behind, which can cause an infection.
  • Drop some disinfectant on your dog on the bitten area, be extremely careful if it’s around your dog’s eyes.
  • Kill the tick by placing it in alcohol.

Warning: Never remove a tick with bare hands, and never crush a tick between your fingers. If you do, you put yourself at risk.
If your dog becomes ill and you recently found a tick on him, seek veterinary attention immediately. Most tick borne diseases can be treated successfully if a diagnosis is made immediately and appropriate treatment initiated. If the tick-borne organisms are allowed to gain foothold, these bad bugs can cause serious illness or even death.

Dr Sharad Singh Yadav is the Chairman of Advanced Pet Hospital & Research Centre which is open 24 hours throughout the year and located in Bishal Nagar, Kathmandu. He may be contacted on tel: 4422855 or email: aphktm@gmail.com