Photo courtesy of TMZ Veterinary Clinic, Lumsden. From top left clockwise, dermodex mite, sucking lice, yeast and sarcoptes mange.
When teaching my last pet first aid class this past fall, a veterinary clinic employee said they've seen more fleas in the last three months than during the last three years all together. Eww. And. did you know that Regina is unofficially known as the "dog lice capital of Canada". Double eww! And tick season is just around the corner!
We have been fortunate because in past Saskatchewan has had few bugs, but unfortunately, that's changing, and various bugs are now common all year long. If you're not careful, your dog will get bugs - and your house, and your vehicle - and you'll spread them around town to other families, and to us! We are paranoid that someone will accidentally bring us bugs. We clean, clean, clean - and then when we're done, we clean again. You can do your part by preventing your dog from getting then passing along bugs.
If your dog is out and about - in your yard, on walks, in parks, at daycare, in kennels, taking classes, in dog-sports, at a veterinary clinic, visiting a friend, rolling in dead things, eating poop - any place hanging out - he can come in contact with bugs and worms. He may not show symptoms for weeks, so you might not even realize that he has them. In addition to keeping your home, your dog's bedding, your vehicle and yard clean, it's important to prevent parasites by talking with your veterinarian about treating your dog with regular preventative products all year round - not just during the spring tick season.
There are a lot of misconceptions about parasite prevention.
- Some people have the misunderstanding that flea/tick treatments are used once a dog has fleas lice to fix an infestation. Flea and tick products are preventatives against several different parasites, and are regularly applied to your dog so he doesn't bring bugs into your home in the first place.
- Some people think it needs to be applied once a year - mostly during the spring for ticks. Most effective treatments are applied monthly or quarterly, with dewormers being applied less frequently depending on your dog's lifestyle.
- Some people prefer to use natural alternatives. Just because something is natural, doesn't mean it's safe.And, some natural ingredient blends are ineffective and even toxic. So you feel good about doing something - but that something may not work, and may or may not be safe. Ultimately your dog may still get ticks and more worrisomely lyme disease that ticks carry.
- Some people worry about putting toxic chemicals on their pets. The problem is that many people really don't know the difference between what is toxic and what is safe. Everything is a chemical. Knowing how chemicals interact is key.
- Some people try to stop one problem - for example, ticks - without thinking holistically about an overall parasite prevention program. Many people don't realize that one effective treatment may eliminate the need for several less effective, and expensive alternatives - some of which may be unsafe.
It's best that you talk with your veterinarian. A holistic preventative approach that covers everything from worms to germs is best. Roundworm. Heartworm. Fleas. Ticks. Dog Lice. And more! It gets really confusing.
While some parasite treatments have been known to cause issues, problems typically arise when applying over-the-counter product (with low manufacturing quality control), the wrong product (a dog product on a cat), too much product (a chihuahua's dose vastly differs from a mastiff's dose), or applying it incorrectly (ingesting rather than applying it topically).
Your veterinarian is the best person to provide the best advice for your dog - about products, dosages, application technique and risks. They are the expert to go to when your dog is unwell, and they should also be the expert you go to to avoid issues in the first place. They know your pet's breed-specific considerations, lifestyle risks and medical history, and can provide evidence-based recommendations about the effectiveness, safety risks and benefits of any treatment option.
Keep track of your pet's medical history using a nifty free app such as Dog Health. When a treatment is due, the app automatically sends out a reminder notice.
In addition to being vectors for diseases, parasite infestations are inconvenient. If you don't prevent them, be prepared to spend time solving the problem for months. Since flea eggs hatch over time, eradicating bugs involves several medicated baths and grooming sessions for all of the pets in your home, and meticulous house cleaning. And, as a good citizen, the last thing you want is for your pet to cause other dogs to become infected. If you get bugs, please self-quarantine your dog so they don't pass along their bugs to others.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In the case of dog bugs, a few millilitres of prevention each month will keep your dog and home, and our kennel and community bug-free.