News & Advice

Is your dog team protected against ectoparasites?

Oct 3, 2020 | Dry stock, Working Dog

Get serious about ticks and fleas for your hardest-working team members – It’s difficult to concentrate when you’re busy scratchin’!

Fleas follow a simple life cycle of egg – larvae – pupae – adult. This cycle is climate dependant, taking from 6 months to just 12 days to complete under optimal conditions, and with each female flea capable of laying up to 50 eggs per day, 10 fleas can become 250 000 in a month if left untreated!

Fleas can easily survive in the environment as pupae for up to 6 months, and it takes really low temperatures such -1oC for 5 days to kill development of the pre-adult stage. Adult fleas easily survive overwinter by feeding on untreated cats and dogs, and a whole host of wildlife species especially rabbits and possums. Apart from the shear scratching nuisance caused to dogs, which is a welfare matter in its own right, flea related diseases account for over 50% of skin diseases reported to vets, the most severe of which is flea allergic dermatitis which can be quite debilitating. In these cases, individuals have a specific allergy to the flea saliva itself. So when a flea bites into the host, this triggers a widespread hypersensitivity reaction and can result in extensive raw skin lesions. Fleas can also transmit the flea tapeworm to dogs and heavy infestations of very young pups can cause anaemia due to the volume of blood the fleas are feeding on.

Having to deal with a flea infestation in the kennels (and the house) can take weeks or even months to overcome, it’s a real welfare issue for the dogs affected, and costs you valuable time and money trying to sort it out. The aim is to PREVENT flea population build up – rather than wait until you suspect signs that the dogs have fleas. We thoroughly recommend you have adequate protection sorted for the whole dog team – and any visiting dog crews.

Cats and dogs share the same flea species – so convince your house cat that they need regular treatment too.

In NZ, the cattle or bush tick (Haemaphysalis longicornis) is the only tick that affects dogs and cats, and although they do not carry any nasty infections as ticks can overseas, such as ‘tick bite paralysis,’ these blood suckers can cause local irritation for dogs as they tend to like to attach in soft skin, e.g. near eyes, ears, and armpits… no wonder the dogs ignore commands when they’re trying to scratch off these suckers! Pulling ticks off dogs can leave their mouthparts in tissue and result in abscesses. Coating them with Vaseline will suffocate them though, then they’ll drop off… or use a tick remover that removes the mouthparts too.

Lice and mites are other possible itch-inducing ectoparasites for dogs. Mites fall into 3 categories;

  • Sarcoptic mange / Scabies / Sarcoptes mite – intense scratching, highly infectious, and potentially transmittable to humans.
  • Demodectic mange / Demodex mite – has a self-limiting form (common in young dogs), or a form associated with immunosuppressed adult dogs. Can cause small, localised lesions of hair loss and itchiness, or generalised patchy hair loss and rawness.
  • Ear mites / Otodectes – cause a whole lot of scratching at the ears. More common in pups.

If your dog team has any issues with scratching, skin or hair not in top form, please talk to us – sometimes it’s not fleas, and examining the dogs can help differentiate between other ectoparasites and allergic skin conditions. If we can’t see fleas or flea dirt, we may have to get our microscopes out!

There are a variety of products available to prevent or treat fleas, lice, ticks, and mites, and we can recommend the right ones for you to take the confusion out of it!

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