By Willie Torrance, Posh Pooch Parlour, Falkirk
In my last article I wrote about fleas. They are the most common external parasites we are likely to see, and as Groomers, we are often the first ones to spot them. As well as fleas, you may come across some other parasites lurking around your doggie clients. Ticks, lice and harvest mites are also easy to spot.
Dogs (and cats) usually acquire these parasites from areas where sheep and deer have been. They bury their mouth-parts into the skin of the animal and suck the blood. Ticks are sometimes confused with small warts or growths. The easiest way to tell if it is a tick is to look for the legs, which will be sticking out from the skin where the mouth-part is imbedded. Ticks are brownish-grey in colour and darken as the body fills with blood. They can engorge themselves to 1cm in diameter.
Although the tick will eventually drop off once it has fed, it should be removed as soon as possible. This will prevent infection and possible transmission of a bacterium ticks carry, which causes Lyme's Disease.
It is very important to ensure that, when removing ticks, the mouth-part is not left in the skin. This can cause infection and possibly an abscess. The best way to remove a tick is to spray it with an insecticidal spray or dab it with surgical spirit. This will make the tick loosen its grip and it can then be gently rotated and pulled off. Never pull a tick straight out of the skin, as the body will become detached and the mouth-part will remain in the skin.
Lice are flat, grey, wingless insects. They move slowly through the coat, unlike the fleas fast movement. There are two types, the biting lice, which feed on dead skin cells, and the sucking lice, which feed on blood. They glue their eggs (called "nits") to the hair.
You will usually find lice around the head area and an infected animal will feel extremely irritated and itchy. Usually they are spread by direct contact with an infected animal, but can be spread indirectly by contaminated brushes or combs.
Infected animals should be referred to a Vet. The adult lice can be killed with an insecticidal shampoo but further treatment is required to remove the nits. It is also best to have the pet checked by a Vet, as lice often infest sick animals and there may be some other underlying illness.
Also known as a "chigger" or "berry bug". The adult mites live in the soil. Only the larvae are parasitic. They appear in late summer and early autumn and attach themselves to the skin. They are seen as tiny red dots, often in between toes and on legs. They cause the animal to itch and chew at itself thus giving secondary infection to the skin.
Insecticidal sprays or shampoos can be used throughout the parasitic season. Any secondary skin infection should be treated by the Vet.