Fleas, Ticks and Flies Treatment in Working Dogs
Fleas are a common parasite encountered by working dogs out on the farm. Adult fleas feed on the blood of dogs, causing irritation and pain, and can lead to Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD) in sensitive animals. A single flea can consumer up to 10 times their body weight in blood in just 24 hours, biting an animal up to 400 times a day. Fleas can also transmit other parasites (e.g. flea tapeworm) and diseases.
What Is FAD?
FAD is an allergy in dogs to the saliva of fleas that is injected when the flea feeds on the dog. This leads to intense itching, excessive grooming, hair loss and self-trauma, which can cause pain and predispose dogs to secondary skin infections. It only takes a single flea bite to cause a sensitive animal to start scratching, so just because you can’t see any fleas, does not mean this is not the cause.
A Bit About The Flea Lifecycle
Adult fleas live on the animal and feed on blood. The female fleas start producing eggs approximately 36-48 hours after commencing feeding and can lay up to 50 eggs per day. Eggs fall from the coat and spread through the environment, hatching into grub-like larvae. Larvae avoid the light and live in dirt and sand, carpet, cracks in the floorboards, furniture and bedding. They feed on adult flea faeces and debris in the environment. The larvae then become pupae, which are protected by a cocoon. Due to this cocoon, pupae are highly resilient and much less susceptible to chemical control (insecticides, flea bombs). The adult flea hatches in response to environmental stimuli (e.g. heat, pressure, vibration) after 10 days to 12 months.
Warmth and humidity are optimal for flea development and reproduction, and during cooler temperatures their development slows down. However, smaller numbers of fleas will continue to be active over winter, feeding on untreated pets, with female fleas producing up to 50 eggs per day that will contaminate the environment. These eggs will develop into larvae, and then pupae which remain dormant until the weather warms up, when they begin to hatch into adults in large numbers, and seek out an animal to feed on.
Treat all pets in the household regularly and as directed (frequency, body weight) all year round. There is no product that repels fleas, so if fleas are present in the environment, they will jump on to pets, even ones that are treated. The Advantage Family products (Advantage®, Advocate®, Advantix® and Seresto®) not only kill fleas on the pet, but also larvae in the environment. The active ingredient, imidacloprid, is minimally systemically absorbed, remaining in the oily layer of the skin and fur. As the animal naturally sheds dead skin cells, the imidacloprid is shed into the environment and ingested by larvae. Imidacloprid stops fleas biting within 3-5 minutes and kills re-infesting fleas within 1 hour. As the active ingredients work on contact, this also means that the fleas do not have to bite your dog to be affected, reducing discomfort to pets and the risk of disease transmission.
Ticks are very common parasites and Australia has one of the deadliest tick species on the planet – the paralysis tick – which poses a great threat to working dogs.
A Bit About Ticks
Ticks are parasites which must take a blood meal from an animal in order to grow, develop and reproduce. They have 4 different life stages – egg, larva, nymph and adult – and all except the egg must find a host and feed. Ticks can carry diseases which are passed on to animals during feeding. Ticks prefer warm and humid conditions, and are most abundant in spring and summer. However, they can be found all year round, especially in tropical and subtropical locations. Ticks are most commonly found in dense bushland and long grass, pet beds and kennels. They locate hosts by detecting exhaled carbon dioxide, body heat, movement and even moving shadows.
Paralysis Tick Hosts
The natural hosts of paralysis ticks are wildlife animals including bandicoots, possums and kangaroos. However susceptible hosts include dogs, cats, humans and farm animals (calves, sheep, foals).
Paralysis Tick Toxicity
Saliva of the larvae, nymphs and adults contains a neurotoxin which is injected into the host while feeding. A single adult paralysis tick can cause tick paralysis and death in a pet. Symptoms of tick toxicity usually begin 3-4 days after tick attachment and include:
Weak back legs/inability to walk
Loss of appetite
Change to the sound of the voice
Vomiting, drooling or gagging
Brown Dog Tick Issue
The natural host of the brown dog tick is the dog. However, susceptible hosts include cats, cattle, sheep and horses. Brown dog ticks are non-venomous but can cause irritation and discomfort, anaemia (in heavy infections) and tick fever (blood-borne parasite causing fever, inappetance, anaemia and depression). Brown dog ticks are often found in large numbers, with each female producing up to 5000 eggs. Larvae, nymphs and adults must all attach to and feed on an animal, and they usually use the same host each time and survive in the host’s immediate environment (e.g. kennel). They can survive for 1.5 years as adults without feeding. Control of these parasites relies on clearing out kennels and using insecticides, as well as control on the animal.
Wildlife and cattle are the most common host, but they also attach to dogs. They are non-venomous but can cause irritation and discomfort, and anaemia in large numbers. Protecting your working dog
Hot and humid conditions are ideal for irritating blood-sucking parasites like mosquitoes and flies. These insects are a nuisance for working dogs. Their biting and feeding activity leads to skin sores and infections, and causes dogs to scratch and bite at themselves which can cause further damage. In some cases, veterinary treatment may be required. Mosquitoes also carry heartworm disease and transmit heartworm larvae between pets when feeding on their blood.
Control of these irritating insects can be difficult, but there are a few things you can do to protect your dog.
- Limit the number of pools of stagnant water around the property
- Regularly remove anything that can attract flies e.g. faecal material, uneaten pet food, uncovered garbage
- Keep insect wounds clean by regularly bathing in warm water to clean away dried blood
- Use an insecticide spray around the house – inside and out
- Use an effective product on your dog to protect them from these nasties