Flea and Tick Control

Flea and Tick Control

Flea Control

Fleas can be distressing for your pet, however they are more than just a nuisance. Fleas can cause skin disease and transmit infectious or parasitic diseases, some of which can be transmitted to humans too. In some dogs, fleas can also trigger an allergic condition called flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), a skin disease that is intensely itchy and can result in hair loss and skin infections. In dogs with FAD, even a small number of fleas can cause intense irritation, meaning year-round flea control is essential!

Fleas are most often seen during the warmer months but, because we keep our homes nice and warm throughout winter, we see fleas all year round. Only a small part of the adult flea population actually lives on your pet. The fleas’ eggs and larvae live in the environment and can survive for up to a year, so it is important to not only treat your animal directly for fleas but also decontaminate the environment as well. Flea control can be very difficult as only the adult flea lives on your pet. The rest of the life cycle is completed in the environment. Female fleas can lay from 20 to 50 eggs a day and up to 2000 eggs during their lifetime, which then fall off your pet into the environment. Wash your pet’s bedding using the hottest cycle on your washing machine and regularly vacuum/clean carpets. Flea collars or flea shampoos alone are not sufficient as they fail to address the environmental flea infestation.

Fleas will tend to jump onto your pet only to feed and then jump off again. Some signs that your pet may have fleas include:

  • Scratching, biting and hair loss, especially at the base of the tail and rump
  • You may see fleas (especially over the rump and in the groin region)
  • It can be difficult to find the fleas, but is relatively easy to check for flea dirt.  Simply moisten a cotton ball, part your pet’s fur and place the cotton ball on the skin over the rump. If the cotton ball takes on black specs surrounded by a reddish area, this may be flea dirt and can indicate that your pet has fleas.
The most common way pets pick up fleas is from the environment. Fleas rarely jump from pet to pet. Pets can pick up fleas from a walk, playing in the dog park, at the beach or even in the backyard. 

Spotting fleas isn’t always easy – they are small and fast, and some dogs can show signs of severe itchiness and irritation when only a few fleas are present. The other thing to consider is that the adult fleas you see on your dog are only part of the problem. You may be surprised to learn that adult fleas (the ones you see) make up only about 5% of the total population. The remaining 95% (eggs, larvae and pupae) are found in carpets and bedding - in fact anywhere in your house! Each female flea can lay up to 50 eggs per day so it doesn’t take long for an infestation to take hold.

It is important to remember that fleas aren’t just a problem in the summer. Use flea control all-year-round. You, and your pet, will be happier for it.

Finding fleas in your pet

Adult fleas, when present, are found by parting the coat near the base of the tail using either your hands or a flea comb. Most fleas will move or jump when disturbed. If no fleas are seen the next step is to examine for flea dirt, these are dark, pepper-like particles on the surface of your pet’s skin and coat. To find these flea droppings simply moisten a cotton ball, part your pet’s fur and place the cotton ball on the skin over the rump. The particles will attach and turn reddish brown when moistened.

Finally recognising the predictable location of skin disease caused by fleas on your pet will indicate the likelihood that fleas are present in your pet’s environment even if no evidence is found. This is irritation and hair loss in the lower back and tail region in dogs. In cats this skin disease is often more generalised.

Breaking the environmental lifecycle will take up to 3 months

  • Identify the favourite spots where your animal likes to spend time and concentrate there.
  • Regularly vacuum to remove previously laid eggs and stimulate fleas to emerge from cocoons.
  • Wash pet bedding regularly using the hottest cycle; at least 60°C for more than 10 minutes.
  • Stop pets from accessing areas that are dark and humid where larvae survive. For example going under the house.
  • Use environmental treatments if required.

Tick Control

The most common ticks infesting dogs in Australia are the paralysis tick, the brown dog tick, and the bush tick.

Paralysis ticks

The paralysis tick (Ixodesholocyclus) is one of the most dangerous parasites that can affect your pet. Tick paralysis is estimated to affect tens of thousands of dogs and cats per year in Australia, with many animals dying. The greatest risk is associated with high numbers of adult ticks in spring and summer, but disease can be seen throughout the year. Paralysis ticks are found on the east coast of Australia, from northern Queensland to Victoria.

How does the paralysis tick cause toxicity?

After the tick has attached to the host animal it sucks blood and then secretes a toxin that can cause severe illness, or even death, in cats and dogs. Dogs and cats of any age can be affected.

Signs of tick paralysis include: loss of coordination in the hind legs (wobbly or not being able to get up) which may progress to the front legs, change in bark, retching, coughing or vomiting, loss of appetite, or laboured or rapid breathing. Any of these signs may indicate the presence of a paralysis tick. If your dog shows any of these signs you should seek veterinary attention as soon as possible.

Tips for reducing the risk of tick paralysis include:

  • The year-round use of effective tick control products for all dogs and cats that are living in, or travelling to, known paralysis tick regions.
  • Search your dog daily for ticks - although tick control products will greatly reduce the risk of tick paralysis, it only takes one tick to cause tick paralysis. For this reason, it is important to also perform daily tick searches on your pet.
  • Reduce exposure to ticks in the environment (e.g. clean up leaf litter and debris, minimise or restrict your pet’s access to bushy environments)
  • If you find a tick, remove it immediately, and seek veterinary attention

Brown dog ticks and bush ticks

Brown dog ticks and bush ticks do not cause tick paralysis, but they can cause skin irritation and also transmit other important diseases e.g. Babesia parasites which invade the red blood cells of dogs causing anaemia (which can be fatal).

We are more than happy to show you how to do a thorough tick search and recommend appropriate tick control products for your pet. Please call us to discuss.