Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Is your dog armed to fight fleas and ticks this Spring? Part 1

April showers bring May flowers but that means more bugs too.  As temperatures start to warm up the bugs start to come out and reproduce.  What does this mean for your dog? It means a heightened exposure to ticks, fleas, and other parasites; especially when spring is a peak season for deer ticks.
The dangers of fleas
The Small Animal Hospital in Riverside gives a little light on Understanding the Flea and says, “When a flea bites your dog, it injects a small amount of saliva into the skin to prevent blood coagulation. Some animals may have fleas without showing discomfort, but an unfortunate number of dogs become sensitized to this saliva. In highly allergic animals, the bite of a single flea can cause severe itching and scratching. Fleas cause the most common skin disease of dogs – flea allergy dermatitis.” – Dr. Doug Brum.    
Symptoms of flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) include redness, bumps, scabs, and severe hair loss due to scratching.  Fleas can also carry tapeworm, as they are a main host for the parasite.  If your dog ingests a flea they might also be ingesting a tapeworm, which can be hard to detect because they show few symptoms.  Taking the steps to keep your dog flea free will prevent a lot of trouble down the road.
The dangers of ticks   
Ticks can also cause medical problems for your dog because they can transmit serious diseases such as Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. 
“It is not the tick bite but the toxins, secretions, or organisms in the tick's saliva transmitted through the bite that causes disease.” – Charles P. Davis, M.D., Ph.D.  When ticks feed they bury their teeth deep into the skin of their host.  In addition, the blood in their stomach is poisonous.  For these reasons, it is very important that ticks are removed carefully and in one piece.  If the head of a tick is left in the skin, your dog can still contract a disease.  If the tick body is opened and blood is released into the open wound of your dog it can cause a skin infection.  
Signs of a tick bite on your dog include fever, loss of appetite, sore and swollen limbs, skin infections, lethargy, and arthritis.  Both ticks and fleas can cause Anemia (low blood count) in a dog from losing too much blood.
Because the signs of a tick bite can be commonly mistaken for another issue, it is best to check over your dog anytime they have been exploring outside or in an area that might carry ticks.  Ticks often look like a large brown flea, but have eight legs like a spider.  They bite into your dog and feed on his blood, and like a mosquito, they get bigger as they feed. By running your hand over your dog’s coat, you would feel a strange bump if a tick is attached.  Check inside your dogs ears as well since ticks can easily hide in there.  By checking your dog as soon as you come in from outside you are increasing your chances of catching a tick on your dogs coat before they have attached themselves.  Remember, ticks do bite humans too, so preventing your dog from attracting a tick is a preventative measure for the whole family.   
For more on ticks, check out this Dog Tick Guide

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