Preventive care to keep dogs safe from ticks and fleas

By Dr. Smruti Smita Mohapatra*

Ticks are ectoparasites that are part of the mite super order Parasitiformes. Because of their blood-ingesting diets, ticks act as vectors of many serious diseases that affect health of the pets. Ticks consume blood to satisfy all the nutritional requirements. They are obligate hematophages, and require blood to survive and move from one stage of life to another. Flea, the common name for the order Siphonaptera, includes small flightless insects that survive as external parasites of pets. Fleas live by consuming blood from their hosts. They are vectors for viral, bacterial, and rickettsial diseases of humans and other animals, protozoan and helminth parasites.

A lot of itchiness and scratching around the head and ears begin initially. While fleas jump from one spot to another, ticks tend to stick to a site. Pet parents generally find it easier to kill fleas by applying an anti-tick and flea massage oil and then giving their dog an anti-tick and flea shampoo bath with warm water. It is necessary to seek advice from a veterinarian on the appropriate use and dosage of an effective acaricide for the affected pet. Pet owners must deworm and vaccinate their pets routinely. Checking hair coat, ears, neck, inner thighs, paws, and tail region of the pet for ticks regularly is necessary. Use of slicker brush against the direction of hair to comb out ticks effectively must be done. Flea collars are convenient since they typically last longer than topical treatments.

All cracks and crevices in the house and pet kennel should be sprayed with a higher concentration of the acaricide along with application on the pet body to avoid re-infestation. An adjustable muzzle must be put to the pet to avoid licking the product after application. It is necessary to keep your pet indoors from twilight to morning during monsoons in areas at risk to protect them against ticks and fleas. The responsible owners can remove ticks by their heads with tweezers while wearing gloves to prevent cross infestation. Keeping the affected dog away from other dogs at home or stray can largely reduce the risk of getting fleas and ticks. The sofas and carpets must be vacuumed regularly. The bedding needs to be heat dried and cleaned with hot water. As we use flea and tick foggers, the room must be evacuated of all pets and people for 12–24 hours. Tick fever generally weakens immune system. So the dog must be given regular meals, good supplements, and made to stay hydrated.

Fleas and ticks are very resilient. The best approach to eliminate them is to keep both the indoors and outdoors effectively clean. Oral chewable tablets, topical creams, shampoos, and tick collars are the recommended flea and tick treatments for dogs. Ticks and fleas have significant economic impacts. In India, pet owners spend a lot annually on flea-related veterinary bills and flea/tick treatment with pet groomers. Thus prevention is always better than care!

*M.V.Sc, PhD and Senior Veterinarian, Onpets

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