Fleas and ticks are one of the dog owner’s worst nightmare. Both parasites feed on blood. Fleas basically “jump” from a host to another. In addition, they can cause skin irritations, rashes from allergic reactions, anaemia and in rare cases, death. Fleas can also carry tapeworm which can infest your pet. Dogs pass out tapeworms in their faeces. Look out for small rice like particles in their faeces or around the anus.
Ticks on the other hand carry diseases and blood parasites/ bacteria. In Singapore, the most common specie of tick is the brown dog tick. It can carry Erlichia canis, Babesia canis and Bebesia gibsoni, which will cause Canine Erlichiosis or Canine Babesiosis which is commonly known as tick fever. Symptoms for tick fever varies but common signs are dogs becoming weak and pale in the gums, lethargy, and/or sudden loss of appetite followed by vomiting and diarrhoea. Immediate vet attention is vital.
An infected dog can also spread to another, for example when he bites another (fighting with transmitted blood). Dogs who have recovered from tick fever should not donate blood because the recipients will get the disease. Surviving dogs are usually lifetime carriers of the bacteria so they may suffer relapses with stressed.
As yet, there is no vaccination available for tick fever. Hence prevention is the only option.
1) Stay Away from Tick Infested Areas
If you can identity any particular areas in your neighbourhood, whereby your dog returns from walks with ticks crawling on his fur, AVOID IT.
2) Tick Checks
Removal of ticks from your dog within 24 hours greatly reduces the chances of contracting tick fever. Usually, crawling ticks have yet to “bite/ latch” on to your dog. Do not squeeze the ticks in your home! Drown them in a glass of washing detergent, alcohol or vinegar. In addition, during removal, use a tweezer and reach as close as possible to the skin and lift up slow and steadily. This avoids leaving parts of the body embedded in the skin. Do not squeeze the ticks body while it is attached to the dog’s skin as this will expel more organism into your pet hence increasing the chance of infection.
3) Flea and Tick Repellents/Spot-Ons
Popular monthly spot-ons such as Frontline Plus, Advocate and Revolution are easily available and takes less than a minute to apply to your pet. These spot-ons will improve your pet’s protection against these parasites, allowing you to have a greater peace of mind. Regardless, you must still keep up with the routine checking and quick removal of ticks after walks on grassy patches or visits to public places like dog parks,beaches, hikes in forested areas.
If you prefer something natural, you can also try the following home remedies.
- Rose Geranium Oil (drop 1-2 drops neat on the back of a medium-large dog or mix 20 drops + 3 tblsp carrier oil and apply on the fur especially areas around where collar sits.
- Organic Extra Virgin Coconut oil – massage in several times a week
- Organic Neem oil – mix and use within 8 hours as the mixture is sensitive, unstable and breaks down quickly. You can place a few drops of neem oil on your palms and rub on to your dog’s fur. Alternatively, you can also make a spray with 5 ml of organic neem oil with 1-2 ml of mild soap or detergent and 0.5 litre (2 cups) water. For severe tick infested areas, you can increase the dosage of neem to 5ml. Mix the soap and water first and slowly add on the oil and shake. Use warm and not hot water.
Neem Oil by itself smells very bad but it works not only for ticks but for skin problems as well. Richard’s Organics Neem Oil is available for sale but for something simpler, you can consider getting Richards Organic Flea & Tick Spray, which is made with natural ingredients and pure essential oils. Washbar Neem Fresh Shampoo is also a convenient shampoo to use.
- Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
Either dilute 1:1 ACV and water and mix and spray on the dog or you can add several drops into your dog’s food or even water bowl.