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