As the summer months approach, it is not just humans and pets who are ready to enjoy the sunshine. So-called "ectoparasites" – specifically fleas and ticks – grow more quickly and become more active when it gets warmer. While the Parasites are seen all year round now, with centrally heated homes, they are more common in the summer months.
A recent study by over 500 Irish dog owners of MSD, the International Animal Health Company, has come up with some interesting facts and figures about the impact of parasites on people and pets.
First, the results show how close Irish people have become to their dogs: pets are now considered by most people as fully fledged family members. 63% of owners leave their dog to lie on the sofa and 37% of their dog sleep on the human bed. Meanwhile, 80% say hello to their dog when they come home, and 33% go as far as dancing with their dogs. 40% of dog owners leave their dogs licking their faces, but 44% said they would not wash their hands without petting their dog. This close proximity of people and animals is a new trend in a country where dogs are more traditional than indoor-type, in-and-froggy creatures, not like pets indoors. This new closeness means that there is an increased risk of creepy crawling parasites shifting from dogs to humans.
Fortunately, humans do not develop fledgling flea infestations. Dog and cat fleas nipples human flesh, then decide that they do not like the taste of our blood. If a flea hips on to you, you're likely to get an excessive rash, like nettle stings. Some people are allergic to fleas, so they can suffer a more dramatic version, with a real itch and bitter spots. It's better to take steps to ensure it never happens.
Flesh can be a hidden problem: over 95% of a flea infestation is in the home, with the fleas living in the carpets and soft furnishings. Only 5% of a flea population is normally visible on the affected pet. Therefore, when I see an Ichetian animal, I often suggest treating the pet – and the home – for fleas, even if I can't see any creepy dog or cat crawling. And this is one of the reasons many people choose to use routine flea control measures, especially during the warmer months of the year.
Ticks are equally problematic. They are not a kiosk about what species they suck blood from, and the big issue is that Tix can transmit lime disease, which causes serious illness in both dogs and humans.
The life cycle of a ticket is simple: they are hidden in vegetation, such as meadows or woodlands, waiting for passing mammals. Then they achieved what piece of anatomy they could get onto, crawling up the body and burying their mole pits deep into the skin, like a little drill looking for a blood vessel. They then suck blood, swelling up as they pour a blood meal. Once full, the females fall into the subway (or the carpet, if they are in a house). They lay their eggs, young ticks, and so the cycle repeats itself.
The problem is that, as well as an irritation when they are attached, they pick up the life-threatening discomfort when they suck blood from an infected animal, and they pass it on to their next victim. Again, you can see the logic in preventing the parasites of damming people and pets.
If a pet just got a tick once or twice a year, it is sometimes a relaxing fitting, just remove them carefully when they appear (ideally using a proper ticketing tool such as the "Oct Tic Remover"). If ticks are more frequent than this, it is definitely worth using regular ticket control treatments to prevent the problem.
There are several locations where tickets are much more common than others: I know many pet owners who take summer trips to different parts of the country where they know to expect ticks on their pets and themselves. Before they head every year, they come to collect effective tokens control medication from my clinic, to ensure that they – and their pets – can enjoy a tickback.
In the last survey, while dog owners are well aware of the value of protecting their animals from fleas and ticks, almost two-thirds of them are admitted to frequent or often forgotten treatment. Over half of the respondents (58%) said they did not receive a regular reminder of their veterinary surgeon, but over 50% also said they would be more likely to remember to perform effective prevention if prompted by a reminder. This is something that more and more people are involved in, especially at the age of easy and inexpensive communication, such as SMS texts and emails.
One way to make it easier for owners to prevent the Parasites from using the most recently developed parasitic control methods: more than two thirds of dog owners surveyed would have to give long-term (12 weeks) flea and tick treatment A special warming tablet is the best way to remember to give a flea and tick treatment every month.
Flea and tick control measures have improved significantly in recent years. If you're not sure what to do, talk to your vet: the most effective and safest anti-parasite products tend to be launched first through the network of weather clinics.