Parasites (fleas, ticks…)
During the cold season, parasites such as fleas are less frequent. This is because they have taken refuge in shelters within your home or have remained in the form of eggs. With the rise in temperature, these parasites come back abundantly infesting our pets. Careful inspection of your pet’s coat can detect fleas on its fur, although they are difficult to see. Fleas cause your dog to scratch intensely, but eczema or allergies can also occur. Fleas can also transmit parasites such as Dipylidium which is a worm similar to Taenia.
It is important to inspect the coat and skin of your pets regularly to see if there are any parasites, especially ticks. Ticks attach themselves to your pets’ skin and feed on their blood. They are most often found on the head (ears, neck, …) but they can attach themselves almost anywhere on the body of dogs or cats.
Ticks are dangerous for the health of your pets because they are likely to carry certain diseases:
- Piroplasmosis (or babesiosis): these are microscopic parasites (Babesia) that attack the red blood cells and destroy them, causing serious disorders and can even be fatal. The tick can carry this kind of Babesia if it feeds on an animal already infected with Babesia; then it can feed on another animal and then transmit these parasites. There are vaccines against this disease, which are recommended if you live in an area where this disease is common (frequently rural areas) ;
- Erlichiosis: These are also parasites that attack red blood cells. The disease is similar to piroplasmosis but is more frequently fatal. This disease occurs mainly in the south of France.
The places at risk for ticks are forests, bushes, tall grasses … Thus, after each walk in this kind of environment, it is necessary to check that no tick is present on your animal. If this is the case, it is wise to use a special tick tweezers that will allow you to remove this parasite easily by turning. Warning! Do not pull on the tick brutally, as this could tear off the body and leave the head of the tick on the animal and be a source of infection afterwards. In addition, by pulling, the tick is likely to regurgitate its blood meal inside the animal and is therefore likely to transmit certain diseases.
Treatment : The first thing to do is to treat your animals with external anti-parasites. It is normally useful to do this regularly throughout the year, but it is really in the spring that the risk of catching these parasites is greatest.
External anti-parasites come in several forms: pipette to apply on your pet’s neck, shampoo, spray, tablets, collar… Anti-parasite collars can sometimes act for 6 months in a row and even resist water.
It is classically established to treat your pets once a month (this depends on the product). It is necessary to treat all the animals in the house to break the cycle of contamination between them.
It is then up to you to choose the form of treatment that you feel is most suitable.
Do not forget to treat your house because the presence of fleas on your animals means that there are fleas in your house too. These parasites hide in carpets, rugs or parquet flooring.
Processionary caterpillars (Thaumetopoea pityocampa)
At the end of winter, the processionary caterpillars are visible by their silk nests present in some trees (mainly pines). These caterpillars come down from their nests in early spring and are then dangerous for our pets.
Indeed, dogs and cats are often curious and likely to play with this kind of caterpillars when they are on the ground or even try to swallow them. These insects are covered with venomous stinging hairs that will irritate the animal’s mucous membranes (most often in the mouth).
Thus, if your pet has played with these caterpillars, he may have an allergic reaction and severe irritation. Most of the time, this reaction is localized to the mouth with the presence of significant salivation, swelling (edema), and the tongue can be severely affected. In addition this is very painful.
This is a veterinary emergency because the tongue can necrotize if no action is taken and an allergic shock (anaphylactic shock) can occur in some cases and kill your pet.
Caution, these caterpillars are also urticating for humans and can cause severe skin burns.
Prevention: If you are in an area with processionary caterpillars, do not walk with your animals near the pine trees. Keep your animals away from these caterpillars if you see any.
If some of them have taken up residence in your garden or if you have spotted a corner with insects, you can contact your town hall which will be able to find the appropriate solutions.
Like humans, our pets can be sensitive to various environmental allergens. In the spring, the multiplication of pollen can affect them as well.
These are hypersensitivity reactions against these allergens. These allergens can come from certain trees, fields (wheat,…), grass… It is therefore very difficult to prevent oneself from doing so, because it is not really possible to prevent one’s pets from going out!
Symptoms related to these allergies are quite varied: skin problems with itching, pimples, hair loss; conjunctivitis; sneezing related to “allergic colds”, etc…
Usual treatments are based on antihistamines and/or corticosteroids. Be careful, these medications can be dangerous, so it is necessary to consult a veterinarian to treat these allergies and do not try to treat your pets by yourself.
It is possible to have your pet tested by a veterinarian to find out which allergens it is sensitive to: blood tests or skin tests. Some desensitizations are also possible.
Finally, spring is also often synonymous with swimming for dogs, happy to be able to jump in the water at the first opportunity! It is important to wash your dog thoroughly after swimming to avoid any dermatological problems. Indeed, water can be irritating for dogs’ skin, especially sea water. Moreover, if it is a lake or pond, the water may be dirty or harbour parasites: that is why it is wise to shower your dog with clear water right afterwards, or even use a (mild) shampoo.
Leptospirosis is the most important swimming hazard. This is a disease caused by a bacterium (Leptospira) that is present in aquatic environments where rodents are also present. Indeed, rodents (rats, coypu…) carry the bacteria without being sick and then contaminate the environment with their infected urine. For example, a dog that swims in contaminated water can become infected through a skin wound.
This is a serious disease that can cause many different symptoms: fever, digestive problems, jaundice, weakness, kidney problems… even death.
Prevention: The classic vaccination of the dog includes a valence against leptospirosis. This is a vaccine to be given every 6 months or every year depending on whether your dog tends to bathe in risky waters. The vaccine protects against the main subtypes of leptospira but not all. There is therefore a risk of getting the disease anyway.
The bacterium is not caught by drinking the water but only through the skin. This way you can prevent your dog from bathing in places that are likely to harbour rodents (stagnant water…). In addition, derat your house or garden if these rodents are present.
Beware, leptospirosis can be transmitted to humans. If your dog has a wound and has bathed, it is advisable not to touch his dog or wear gloves to avoid any risk.