Sunday 18th October: It’s a tick’s life

It was the usual party atmosphere at Whiskers’n’Paws today, and three puppies were adopted, one of them being little Olive. What a sweetheart she is, and her siblings are just gorgeous too. While trying to work out how old Olive is now I realised I must have had her for six weeks, so that means she and her litter are about ten weeks old now. Each week blends into the next and it’s easy to lose track.

We had some very sad news that the pom, Sooty, who had been left behind in an apartment with his pom friend, Sweep, died following heartworm treatment. It seems doubly tragic given his sad story, and a reminder that prevention is always better than cure. There’s no such thing as totally safe treatment as dogs can, and do, die during routine surgery (as do humans), and heartworm can kill even when the worms themselves have died. Dogs can have allergic reactions to medication, even vaccinations, as well as food and other things, but a death like this always seems worse as we were trying to help poor Sooty, not kill him.

It still surprises me that so many dog owners have never heard of heartworm or tick fever, when both are so common and heartworm, at least, is so easy to prevent. The treatment is dangerous because the dead worms are still in the heart, and until they completely break down (which takes about a month) there is always a danger of the bits of worm breaking off and lodging in the lungs or causing a blockage somewhere.

Luckily the ticks are less prevalent now with the cooler weather, but you still have to be vigilant.

Talking of ticks, there have been a couple of cases recently which made me realise that ticks and tick prevention are still a mystery to a lot of dog owners. I also have to admit that although I’ve asked quite a few vets for a definitive answer, there aren’t many who really know about the ticks and their life cycle. What I can say is that ticks don’t jump from one dog to another, and that there are stages of development that ticks have to go through before they become mature. So when someone says their dog has “caught ticks” from one of the kennel dogs, for example, that just isn’t true. Apart from the fact that our dogs are treated every month (and we have the huge bills to prove it!), ticks bury their head into the skin of a dog and stay there until they have drink their fill of blood and drop off. They don’t then just climb on to another dog. Most ticks are caught from grass or greenery where the baby ticks wait for a passing animal to brush against them so they can transfer onto the coat. That’s why you’ll often find a whole bunch of ticks in one area of a dog.

As for prevention, there isn’t any guaranteed remedy. Some dogs are what I call tick magnets, in the same way that some people attract mosquitoes while others never get bitten. The dogs that live and sleep upstairs at my house, particularly those that sleep in my bedroom, I’m scrupulous about using tick prevention but I still find ticks, some happily snuggling under (new) tick collars. You really just have to do manual checks every day to make sure that there are no ticks lurking.

I think all dogs owners agree on one thing, and that’s that we hate ticks!

To lighten up a bit, watch this YouTube clip to see what shepherds and their dogs get up to in their spare time (which they seem to have plenty of!)



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