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Pet Parasites – More than Just Poop Patrol! - Part One - February 2014
Ticks and Lice
Parasites are a normal part of our everyday existence. Even humans get parasites. Dogs and cats are susceptible to many different parasites and there is way too much information to include a great deal about all of them in this article, so let’s start with some of the external parasites that we can see here in the Okanagan.
Right now, in the spring months of April through June, ticks can be an issue if you take walks with your dog in the hills, wooded regions and other areas where deer spend their time. I have not seen ticks on dogs and cats that simply stay in the residential areas, but never say never! Ticks are not my favourite creatures. I remember getting them on me when I was young growing up in Virginia. My mother would put oil on their head attachment at the skin or a lit match at their butt end and I guess it worked. Apparently, these methods are not considered terribly successful in our more modern times. One of the primary concerns with ticks is that they can carry bacteria known to cause Lyme disease in both people and pets. Lyme disease can be a serious illness for anyone contracting it. In animals it may cause lameness, swollen joints, fever, poor appetite, fatigue, and vomiting.
The Okanagan is considered a low risk area. I am not aware of any pets being diagnosed with it here. Three to five human cases of Lyme disease are reported in B.C. each year. What we do see occasionally in dogs is Tick Paralysis. This begins as a hindquarter weakness while the dog is still acting normal as far as attitude and appetite. If it progresses far enough, there could be the risk of total paralysis. If you notice these symptoms in your pet, look thoroughly for ticks all over their body. It only takes one. Once the tick(s) are removed, it will take about 24 hours for full return to normal function. If you find a tick, the best method of removal is to grasp it as close to the skin as possible with a pair of tweezers and twist the tweezers counterclockwise without pulling (remember “righty tighty, lefty loosy) and it should essentially twist out. It would be a good idea to put the tick into a vial and take to the nearest health unit to have it sent off for analysis on type of tick and diseases it might carry. Clean your hands, the bite site and the tweezers with disinfectant to make sure you kill any bacteria that might have been squeezed out of the tick.
To prevent ticks, the best methods are to avoid the tick infested areas such as Kelowna’s surrounding hillsides and woodland places, during April, May and June, and to comb and inspect your dogs carefully, especially around the head and inside the ears, after every walk in these areas.
There are chemical parasiticides that you can use on your pets during this time of year. To avoid the use of chemicals on your pet, you can use a natural Parasite Dust containing neem, yarrow and diatomaceous flour (www.buckmountainbotanicals.com) or a natural insect repellent, such as a product containing lemon and eucalyptus oils. The parasite dust acts in several ways to rid animals and buildings of flies, fleas, lice, ticks, mites, spiders, beetles, ants and more. The neem tree contains a chemical, azadirachtin. It is an active herbal insecticide and a repellent. Neem herb has found broad use as a wound healing agent and has reported antimicrobial properties. Yarrow is a repellent to many parasites and diatom flour desiccates many insects. There have been no adverse events reported with this product, but there have been no scientific studies to prove efficacy.
Other external parasites that we can find on pets are fleas and lice. Fleas are not that common in the Okanagan due to our dry summers and fairly cold winters, unlike on the Coast where they are plentiful.
I do not recommend a routine flea control program for my clients’ pets as I see fleas so rarely. If you do go to the Coast with your pets, particularly in the summer and fall you might want to give them a flea bath when you return or comb through them carefully as with the ticks. If you wish to use chemicals, there are at least 2-3 topical preventatives, and 1-2 oral medications that can be administered. Should they become infested with fleas, you can choose to give flea baths or other topical flea products. The Parasite dust mentioned above is also a viable option. While we don’t have many fleas, I have seen a few cases of lice over the last several years. These creatures live their whole life cycle on your pet. Dog lice stay with dogs, human lice with humans and so on. They cause a great deal of itchiness, especially around the shoulder area. Lice are transmitted between dogs with close contact and with the use of instruments, such as combs and brushes. My recommendations for treatment are the same as for fleas. Read Part Two of Pet Parasites next month.
Dr. Moira's Bio: A practicing veterinarian for 20 years, has been in Kelowna since 1990, first owning Rutland Pet Hospital and now, after selling the former, Pawsitive Veterinary Care, opened in 2000 and focused on primarily holistic health care. She welcomes new clients and loves to educate! Kelowna (250) 862-2727. - Dr. Moira Drosdovech Website - Email
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