Fleas can be distressing for your pet: however, they are more than just a nuisance. Fleas can cause skin disease and transmit infectious or parasitic diseases, some of which can be transmitted onto humans. In some dogs, fleas can also trigger an allergic condition called flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), a skin disease that is intensely itchy and can result in hair loss and skin infections. In dogs with FAD, even just one flea can cause intense irritation, meaning year-round flea control is essential!
The most common way pets pick up fleas is from the environment. Fleas rarely jump from pet to pet. Pets can pick up fleas from a walk, playing in the dog park, at the beach or even in the backyard.
Spotting fleas is not always easy — they are small and fast, and some dogs can show signs of severe itchiness and irritation when only a few fleas are present. The other thing to consider is that the adult fleas you see on your dog are only part of the problem. You may be surprised to learn that adult fleas (the ones you see) make up only about 5% of the total population. The remaining 95% (eggs, larvae and pupae) are found in carpets and bedding — in fact anywhere in your house! Each female flea can lay up to 50 eggs per day, so it doesn’t take long for an infestation to take hold.
It is important to remember that fleas aren’t just a problem in the summer. Use flea control all year round. You, and your pet, will be happier for it.
The most common ticks infesting dogs in Australia are the paralysis tick, the brown dog tick, and the bush tick.
Brown dog ticks and bush ticks do not cause tick paralysis. However, they can cause skin irritation and also transmit other important diseases e.g. Babesia parasites which invade the red blood cells of dogs' causing anaemia (which can be fatal if left untreated) and Ehrlichiosis canis, a bacterium that invades the dogs' white cells.
What is ehrlichiosis? Ehrlichiosis is an emerging disease of dogs in Australia that occurs when a brown dog tick infected with the bacteria Ehrlichia canis bites a dog. E. canis occurs around the world, particularly in tropical and subtropical regions. E. canis was confirmed for the first time in Australian dogs in May 2020 in the Kimberley region of Western Australia and June 2020 in the Northern Territory.
Infection with E. canis (Ehrlichiosis) is a notifiable disease in Australia. Dogs do not directly transmit the disease directly to each other. The disease is maintained by a cycle of transmission between ticks and dogs
Ehrlichiosis has three possible phases of the disease: an ‘acute’ phase or early signs of disease, a ‘subclinical phase’ where there are no obvious visible signs of disease, and a ‘chronic’ or long-term stage. The severity of the disease varies considerably.
Your vet will take blood samples for testing to confirm a diagnosis of Ehrlichiosis. Blood tests are needed as the disease can look like other tick-borne diseases in WA such as anaplasmosis in dogs. Ehrlichiosis is treated with antibiotics, supportive care and may require hospitalisation depending on the severity of the infection. Early treatment by your vet provides the best chance of recovery.
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