Combating the creepy crawlies!!


Come rainy season and every pet parent gets scared of ticks and fleas, which can cause a lot of discomfort to our canine friends. Let’ see what they are and how we can protect our pooches from these.

Ticks Facts
Ticks are very common and whenever our pet walks through damp soil, long grass, or low bushes, there may be thousand of seed ticks, and adult ticks waiting to attach themselves to your pets.Ticks are not insects like fleas, but arachnids like mites, spiders and scorpions. More often, we come across various types of so-called “hard” ticks but each of the different species and subspecies have similar life cycles. Ticks life-cycle has four stages, viz. Egg stage, Larval stage, Nymphal stage, and Adult stage. Adult can live for over a year and lay about 100 eggs at a time. Some can even lay between 3000-6000 eggs.Fleas Facts Fleas are aggravating little insects that carry disease, frequently cause intense skin reactions and allergies in our pets, and can be extremely difficult to control. These small dark brown insects thrive in high temperature and humidity levels. Our pets often get infested with fleas through contact with other animals or contact with fleas in the environment. The fleas live on blood and their bite can cause itching to the host but for a sensitive or flea-allergic animal, this itching can be quite severe and leads to hair-loss, inflammation and secondary skin infections. Fleas can even bite humans, leaving small, red, itchy bumps most commonly observed on the wrists and ankles.
Fleas lifecycle also has four stages, viz. Egg stage, Larval stage, Nymphal stage, and Adult stage. Females can lay 50 eggs in a day. Getting suitable conditions, they can complete entire life cycle in three weeks.
Detecting signs of skin parasites
How do you know if fleas are causing all that itching? Generally, fleas can be seen scurrying along the surface of the skin – dark copper coloured and about the size of the head of a pin. As fleas dislike light, so look for them within furry areas and on the pet’s belly and inner thighs. Also, be aware of “flea dirt” too, which looks like dark specks of pepper scattered on the skin surface. If you see flea dirt on your pet’s skin, which is actually flea feces and is composed of digested blood, pick some off the pet and place on a wet paper towel. If after a few minutes the tiny specks spread out like a small blood stain… it’s definitely flea dirt and yes, your pet unfortunately has fleas!
Treatment and prevention
Be armed with the knowledge to prevent and control even the worst flea infestations that may come your way.
There is a range of insecticide products available in the market, such as shampoos, spot ons collars and tablets. Most shampoo based insecticides and insecticide concentrates act as contact insecticides, where insecticides are absorbed systemically and the parasites are killed when it ingests the blood. Collars and Spot ons’ rely on the ability of the active ingredient to spread from the point of application to the remainder part of the animal’s body.
Ectoparasiticides, available in the market, have varied retreatment intervals, depending on the active ingredient and delivery systems (like solutions, shampoos, tablets, spot ons, collars etc). Usually collars have a long retreatment interval followed by spot ons, shampoos/solutions and powders. For individual flea treatment, products with long retreatment interval will be ideal, it is beneficial to change the active ingredient for the subsequent treatments.
Widely, insecticides are categorized as:

  • Cholinesterase inhibitors (OPC and carbamates)
  • Pyrethroid – permethrin, cypermethrin, allethrin, fenvalerate
  • Formamidines- amitraz
  • Phenyle pyrazole- fipronil
  • Choloronicotinyl nitroguanadine imidocloprid

It is important that parasite control is considered in two parts: first individual methods of controlling the adult parasites on the animal and the immature stages in the environment and second, the coordination of individual measures into the parasite control programme. If you find yourself in the midst of an infestation, you will likely need to treat not only the pets but the indoor and outdoor environment as well, including other dogs or cats who live in the household. When treating the indoor environment, it is important to wash all bedding with soapy hot water, especially if the pets spend time on your bed. All carpeting should be vacuumed thoroughly and the vacuum bag thrown away. Steam cleaning the carpet can kill some of the larvae as well. Remember, though, that vacuuming and shampooing a carpet will still leave a good percentage of live fleas, so some sort of chemical treatment may be necessary. Swabbing the floor weekly with insecticides also helps to keep the environment free of parasites. Kennels, which use high pressure washing, are usually free of ticks and fleas. Regular retreatment of the environment helps reduce the problem.
Be sure to consult your veterinarian regarding which methods and products that will be best for you and your pets. It’s a battle and you have to win it, both for you and your pet, so…good luck and happy flea control!
(With inputs from Dr. Hemanth, Anu Veterinary Clinic, Bangalore)

Do’s and Don’t’s

  • When attempting to remove a tick’ to prevent the mouth part from coming off and remaining embedded in the skin, grasp the mouth close to the skin with tweezers and pull gently.
  • After removing the tick, apply some alcohol to the spot.
  • Clean the bite wound with a disinfectant.
  • Never remove a tick with your fingers, as the squeezing further injects infectious material.
  • After removing the tick, place it in a jar of alcohol to kill it.
  • Do not use your fingers to remove or dispose of the tick.
  • Never try to burn a tick off or to smother it with petroleum jelly or nail polish, as these methods don’t work.
  • Do not flush them as they are NOT killed by this.
  • Do NOT squash the tick with your fingers.

The contents of the tick can transmit disease.
Choose insecticide depending on:

  • Target parasite efficacy, Safety, Mode of action, Duration of action, Ease of application, Aesthetic acceptability and Cost.
– by Ramya