PARASITE SEASON: What to do when there’s an outbreak:

PARASITE SEASON: What to do when there’s an outbreak:

What to look out for:

Today, I am visiting Dr. Bianca Betros from Bundanoon Veterinary Hospital in NSW’s Southern Highlands region. With us is Arnie, a nine-year-old English bulldog, and Daisy, a four-year-old Pug.

With high summer looming, Dr. Betros talks about the types of parasites that are prevalent in the region along with the variety of treatments that are available for our canine companions.

Q & A:

Olga: Now that summer is upon us, what type of parasites would likely affect our pets?

Bianca: The most common parasites are fleas, ticks, and heartworm.

Olga: Are we experiencing a higher increase in infestations?

Bianca: What we are noticing is the increase in flea infestation and Paralysis ticks in the region, especially when it rains after a long period of hot weather. And with the seasons experiencing warmer days, the tick season is now getting longer [from August through to March]. But we still treat pets during the winter months for ticks and fleas.

Olga: Where are the ticks most likely to be found?

Bianca: They’re usually found in tall grass and native terrain, which is prevalent in the Southern Highlands and South Coast regions, however, they’re found almost anywhere in NSW,

Olga: What should we look out for?

Bianca: The female species is the most dangerous and she has several stages of feeding. The ticks are bluish-grey in colour and before they begin to feed, they are around two millimetres in size. When fully engorged, they are around 10 millimetres in size.

Olga: Can they be life-threatening at any stage?

Bianca: Yes. No matter the size, the ticks can be deadly as they release a residue of neurotoxins into the dog’s bloodstream. In fact, Paralysis ticks can lead to respiratory arrest within 48 hours so it’s important to have a vet remove the tick as soon as possible. 

Olga: What are the symptoms of a Paralysis tick?

Bianca: As ticks attach themselves to the skin your dog’s bark will become softer and coarser and you will see its hind legs weaken and become wobbly. Often your dog will suddenly sit down. You may also see excess frothing, panting or vomiting, and its breathing may also become very laboured. This is at the stage when the toxin has progressed. Its gums will also be bluish in colour.

Olga: Is there anything else dog owners should consider?

Bianca: We always recommend that you bring your dog to us if there are any signs of engorged ticks as it’s important that the parasite is properly removed and your dog receives immediate treatment. If there are parts of the tick still embedded, it can lead to infection. Paralysis ticks, however, can be life-threatening.

Olga: Can an outbreak be prevented?

Bianca: No, as ticks come with the territory in our region. But you should routinely check for ticks and regularly apply preventative medication especially if your dog is frequently outdoors. In particular, look for ticks in the folds of his fur  — especially around the nape of his neck and ears.

Olga: There are many products in the marketplace. What do you recommend as far as the best treatment goes?

Bianca: The main products we recommend for parasite prevention are NexGard®  — an oral chew that kills fleas, Paralysis ticks, Brown Dog ticks and Bush ticks for a full month. There’s also NexGard® Spectra, which has the add-on protection for intestinal worms and heartworm. Another excellent product is Bravecto, which is a three-month treatment and longer-lasting.  But it’s important to first discuss the most suitable product with your vet if your dog has any skin conditions.

Olga: Are heartworms also common in dogs?

Bianca: They can be because the symptoms aren’t initially visible to us.

Olga? Why is that, Bianca?

Bianca: Once a dog is bitten by an infected mosquito it takes about seven months for the larvae to mature and lodge in the circulatory system and surrounding blood vessels. The adult heartworms then begin reproducing; growing up to 30 centimetres in length and living between five to seven years. So preventative treatment for heartworms is just as vital as addressing ticks and fleas.

Olga: Are there any specific carriers of parasites in the Southern Highlands area?

Bianca: As we are surrounded by numerous national parks, it is common for the wildlife and vermin to act as an intermediate carrier of ticks and other parasites. Once again, always check your dog’s coat and skin after an outing in the bush.

Olga: Thank you, Bianca. Dr. Betros and her team are located at Bundanoon Veterinary Clinic  [YourVet Plus] on Railway Avenue, Bundanoon.

Photos: With me is Dr. Bianca Betros and the surgery’s veterinarian nurse, Shelley Scott. A big thank you also to Ricky and his beautiful dogs, Arnie and Daisy.

Here is a link to National Geographic featuring the process of a tick bite. It’s fascinating to watch.

Please view our blog featuring Dr. Betros on the benefits of a science-based diet.  Also join in the conversation on Google+, Twitter,  InstagramYouTube, and Facebook.