For many of us, we have different ways of deciding when the different seasons have arrived from the falling of leaves in autumn to the first snows of winter. In the veterinary industry, we look for slightly different signs; we know summer has truly arrived when we start seeing grass seeds stuck in ears and between toes, we know winter has arrived when we see a big jump in flea problems as people start switching on their central heating. Spring is heralded by the arrival of our first ticks. So, despite the fact the weather still doesn’t seem too sure what time of year it is, we are proud to officially declare that, as far as vets are concerned, Spring is here! So what does that mean to you and your pets and what has changed over recent years?
The primary concern for dogs as we are entering the spring months is the appearance of fleas and ticks. Fleas tend to be picked up outdoors through the summer months, but once they have started laying eggs indoors, they can be very tricky to get rid of. Thankfully, they are normally more of a nuisance than anything else. They often can go unnoticed until the central heating gets switched on in November, the fleas that are all happily hiding in their puppa decide it must be summer again and all hatch out at once!
Ticks are slightly more of a concern. Up until recent years we have also been lucky enough in this area to also consider ticks a nuisance more than a major concern, however there has been an increase in disease risk over the resent years that owners should be aware of. There are two types of tick of concern in the Essex area and unfortunately both can carry disease. The more common species can carry Lyme disease which can be a serious risk to both dogs and humans requiring prompt treatment if infected. In Essex and Suffolk we also have the less common dermacentor tick. It has been imported from Europe and occurs in pockets around the UK. In Europe this tick carries a disease called Babesia, which causes destruction of red blood cells in dogs. Luckily, for most of the UK, the dermacentor ticks does not carry this disease. Unfortunately in Essex, there have been enough cases of dogs that have not travelled to Europe being infected by Babesia for it now to be considered an endemic disease in this area.
So what can you do? First of all please don’t panic! These diseases are still rare and should not be reason to not exercise your pets. However it would be a good idea to check your dog regularly for ticks, especially after walking in wooded areas. If you find a tick, it is best removed using a tick hook and a twisting motion to remove it entirely (one of our nurses would be happy to show you how). Methods using tweezers to squeeze the tick, attempting to burn the tick off or use paraffin are not very successful and can increase the chance of causing infection. Tick prevention is always better than cure and we have an array of treatments including spot-ons, tablets and collars so we can find a treatment to suit everyone. We are always happy to advice on which products are safest for your household and will still kill ticks fast enough to prevent disease transmission. Finally, if you or a family member notices a tick bite on yourselves, please remember to get it checked by a doctor.
The start of spring is a simpler time for our cats, the longer days can mean longer wonders around the country side which can increase the number of cat fights we see, but the warmer weather brings fewer parasite concerns. Fleas can obviously still be a problem and the cat flea is far more prevalent than the dog flea. Cats are much more prone to flea allergies in which flea prevention treatments are essential. However, cats seem to attract fewer ticks, they are not susceptible to disease from the species of Babesia we have in the UK, and Lyme disease is rarer in cats. However, “rarer” does not mean “never” so we would still advocate regular tick checks in cats and the use of good quality flea and tick preventative treatments
For our smaller furry friends, the spring and summer months bring lots of grass, access to our back gardens but also the arrival of biting insects. Unfortunately biting insects can bring myxamatosis and VHD viruses with them. Luckily these viruses can be vaccinated for with 2 vaccinations given 2 weeks apart followed by yearly boosters. If you have any concerns please contact our clinic to discuss vaccination. Flies can also bring issues with “fly strike” which can result in maggot infested wounds especially around the tail area. This can be prevented with regularly grooming and fly replant treatments when required but please contact us at the clinic for more information
Also, you might like to know we are running an open day for rabbit owners on Saturday the 27th April with lots of fun activities for the younger members of the family. Please check our “Coming up” article for more information, keep an eye on our facebook page for more updates or give us a ring at the clinic if you would like to reserve a spot.
None of these are reasons to not enjoy the beautiful summer weather when it arrives, but it is important to be aware of some of the risks that can occur at this time of year, just as you apply suncream on a hot day, we need to consider parasite treatments for our pets. Otherwise please enjoy the weather, and we at Mayne Vets would like to apologise if it has snowed since writing this newsletter.