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ECTOPARASITES

 

Ectoparasites live on your dog’s skin and include fleas, ticks and ear mites.

 

 

FLEAS

Dogs and cats often get infested with fleas through contact with other animals or contact with fleas in the environment. The strong back legs of this insect enable it to jump from host to host or from the environment onto the host. (Fleas do not have wings, so they cannot fly!) The flea’s bite can cause itching for 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. Some pets, hypersensitive to the flea's saliva, will itch all over from the bite of even a single flea!

In order to understand how and why treatment options work, we must first understand the flea’s life cycle since the various modern treatment and prevention products work on different parts of this life cycle. There are several stages to its life cycle: egg, larva, pupa and adult. The length of time it takes to complete this cycle varies depending upon the environmental conditions such as temperature, humidity, and the availability of a nourishing host.

The flea's host is a warm-blooded animal such as a dog or cat (or even humans!) However, the various flea stages are quite resistant to freezing temperatures. The adult female flea typically lives for several weeks on the pet. During this time period she will suck the animal’s blood two to three times and lay twenty to thirty eggs each day. She may lay several hundred eggs over her life span. These eggs fall off of the pet into the yard, bedding, carpet, and wherever else the animal spends time.

These eggs then proceed to develop where they have landed. Since they are about 1/12 the size of the adult, they can even develop in small cracks in the floor and between crevices in carpeting. The egg then hatches into larvae. These tiny worm-like larvae live among the carpet fibers, in cracks of the floor, and outside in the environment. They feed on organic matter, skin scales, and even the blood-rich adult flea feces.

The larvae grow, molt twice and then form a cocoon and pupate, waiting for the right time to hatch into an adult. These pupae are very resilient and are protected by their cocoon. They can survive quite a long time, waiting until environmental conditions and host availability are just right. Then they emerge from their cocoons when they detect heat, vibrations and exhaled carbon dioxide, all of which indicate that a host is nearby. The newly emerged adult flea can jump onto a nearby host immediately. 

 

Under optimal conditions, the flea can complete its entire life cycle in just fourteen days.

Knowing this life cycle allows us to understand why it has always been important to treat both the host animal and the indoor and outdoor environment in order to fully control flea numbers. Simply sprinkling some flea powder on your pet will not work; simply vacuuming the home vigorously will not work, simply placing a flea collar or using a flea topical on your pet will not work.

With any flea treatment it is necessary to treat all of the animals in the home in order to achieve complete success. In addition, you will likely need to treat the indoor and outdoor environment. When treating the indoor environment it is important to wash all bedding in soapy, hot water especially if the pets spend time on your bed. All of the carpeting should be vacuumed thoroughly and the vacuum bag thrown away. Steam cleaning the carpet/sofa 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.

Be sure to consult your veterinarian regarding which methods and products will be best for you and your pets. Your veterinarian will be your best source for current flea information. 

 

TICKS

Ticks are parasites that can live on or off the host. They commonly attach to the ears, face or abdomen to feed on the dog’s blood. Ticks are common in woodland, moorland and rough grazing and can transmit Lyme Disease (Canine Borreliosis).

 

EAR MITES

Ear mites commonly affect young puppies. They are transmitted from animal to animal via close contact and live on the skin of the outer ear canal. They cause irritation to the ear canal leading to excessive wax, scratching and head shaking.  This affect dogs with long ears - poodles - spaniels.  Clearing the hair away form the ear canal helps with air circulation as they like warm moist areas.  If you suspect your puppy has ear mites contact your vets,  as effective and easy to use treatments are available.

I am a member of the British Dog Grooming Association a division of  Pet Industry Federation.

 

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