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Summer problems with ticks and other parasites
Our expert vet is Vicky Payne. She is a keen beater and a qualified vet specialising in gundogs, as well as the NOBS veterinary advisor. Here she writes about summer problems with ticks and other parasites...What's bugging your dog?
With milder winters, parasites are becoming a problem all year round – but summer is the time for extra vigilance against all manner of creepy crawlies.
This is one skin parasite I see more in gundogs and farm dogs than in pets. Many cases of sarcoptic mange are caught indirectly from foxes, but it can also be spread from dog to dog. The sarcoptic mange mite burrows under the skin, so spot-ons that get into the bloodstream are required to kill them. Mange is usually seen as red, scabby, intensely itchy areas of skin, especially on the ears and legs, and your vet may need to do a skin scraping to diagnose it. Less common is demodectic mange. Demodex is normally present in small numbers on the dog but if the immune system fails it can get out of control. It is usually seen in young dogs, or those on drugs that suppress the immune system.Alternative remedies: Many owners look for alternative ways to control parasites. Garlic is renowned for repelling parasites as well as boosting the immune system. It can have side-effects if given to excess, though. Several herbal blends are available for parasite control and may increase resistance, but none can effectively treat an infestation.
These are tough parasites and can spread diseases including the debilitating Lyme’s disease. Gundogs are particularly at risk from ticks as they are encouraged to hunt the rough ground that ticks love – dogs involved in summer grouse work are particularly at risk. Several sprays and spot-on treatments are available to repel or kill ticks, but I find a daily tick check is still advisable if you are in a known tick area. Check the dog’s head, armpits and groin and remove ticks quickly. Ticks are unlikely to spread disease if they are removed within 12 hours and without upsetting the tick. Tick removers such as the O’Tom are the easiest and safest way to remove ticks complete with their heads. Tick bites can cause localised infection, especially if the head is left behind.
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These are the most common parasite found on dogs and will affect outdoor and indoor dogs of all breeds. You may see live fleas if you comb through the coat, or find the black, gritty flea dirt. Flea dirt can be identified by placing it on wet tissue paper where it will dissolve to a reddish brown. Some dogs scratch very little with fleas; others are allergic to the bites of fleas and even a few bites cause intense irritation. An effective flea spray or spot-on is essential and the dog may need treatment from the vet if very itchy.