Oh how we’re happy when the summer approaches at the though of walks without raincoats, hats and gloves. But it’s not only us and our furry friends who like to get out and enjoy the warmer weather, this is also the time when parasites increase their activity. Fleas, ticks and worms are the main culprits we have to worry about.
Make sure you’re up to date with flea prevention. Fleas can live without a host for up to 7 days, so just because your dog doesn’t chat with any doggy friends (which would be sort of a shame) doesn’t mean that he won’t get fleas. Common choices are tablets, drops to put on his skin, vaccinations and collars. Ask your vet for what will work best for your dog.
Unless your dog has an allergy to fleas you may not realise he has them, whether or not your dog is scratching more than usual can be a bit subjective. A good way to check for fleas if you suspect is to brush him on a white sheet so you can inspect everything that falls off him. If you do find fleas, a product from you vet will be the fastest and most effective way to get rid of them. You will also have to vacuum thoroughly and regularly to pick up any fleas and eggs in the house, and wash all soft furnishings and dog bedding on a hot wash (at least 60 degrees) to kill any eggs. Flea powders, sprays or bombs will help get rid of any remaining fleas in the house, but make sure what you use is suitable for your environment (cats, fish, children).
It is important to keep on top of fleas. A couple may not bother your dog much, but this can quickly build up to an infestation which will be pretty uncomfortable. Fleas can also transmit tapeworms.
Worms can result in serious health problems for your pet, so prevention is the best tactic. Signs of worm infestations include lethargy, weight loss, diarrhea and vomiting. Your dog may also drag his bottom across the floor to relieve the itching (although this may also be due to the anal glands). For worm treatments and prevention, again ask your vet, their products will be more effective. They are available in liquid or tablet form and most should be given every three months.
Check your dog regularly for ticks. Ticks looking for a meal jump from grasses and vegetation when they spot a likely host passing. They attach to the skin with their mouthpiece to feed, leaving their body on the outside. Your fingers are the best way to find ticks. Run your hands through his fur touching his skin all over (he’ll enjoy the attention!) especially after walks in the countryside feeling for any small lumps. Some of them are tiny, they feel like a grain of sand sticking to their skin, so inspect even the smallest little bump you feel. Others are bigger, up to the size of a small pea if they’ve been there a while.
If you do find a tick, the easiest way to remove it successfully is to use a special tick remover tool and twist gently round and round to remove it. There are good instructions here and here. I use the tick twister by O’Tom which isn’t expensive, it works and should last for ever. Some (but not all) flea treatments also work against ticks.
Don’t forget to check yourselves for ticks too – and not just on exposed skin because they walk around to find the best spot for a picnic before attaching. A friend of mine found one on her daughter’s thigh last week, despite her wearing long trousers.
But don’t let all this put you off lovely long walks in this good weather. A bit of prevention is all you need. Keep up to date with your flea and worm treatments, and stay vigilant to catch any potential problems early.