BODY AND SOUL

Sunny skies mean more out­door fun for Fido. How­ever, it also means ex­pos­ing your furkid to nasty bugs. Here are the most in­sid­i­ous creep­y­crawlies.

Pets (Singapore) - - Contents - BY CHRISTIANN PRIYANKA

If some­thing’s bug­ging your furkid, it’s prob­a­bly one of these nasty crit­ters.

most bugs are a bane for both paw-rents and furkids. While some are harm­less, there are a num­ber that can cause se­ri­ous dam­age to Fido’s or Puss’ health. Some of these bugs carry deadly dis­eases or par­a­sites; oth­ers can be in­cred­i­bly dif­fi­cult to elim­i­nate. Here are the bugs you should look out for:

FLEAS

The flea is a wing­less in­sect that feeds on the blood of the host an­i­mal. They have pow­er­ful hind legs that pro­pel them for­ward and onto the bod­ies of un­sus­pect­ing an­i­mals. Fleas thrive in warm, damp cli­mates, which makes Singapore a ripe breed­ing ground for them to flour­ish.

There are over 2,000 species of fleas, but the cat flea is the most com­mon in Singapore. “Cat fleas bite ev­ery liv­ing thing, hu­mans in­cluded,” says Dr Si­mon Quek, a vet­eri­nar­ian with Hill­side Vet­eri­nary Surgery. Fleas are highly trans­mit­table and can cause flea al­lergy der­mati­tis in both dogs and cats. Flea al­lergy der­mati­tis is char­ac­terised by itch­ing, rashes and sec­ondary sym­met­ri­cal hair loss. Even a few flea bites can set off an in­tense re­ac­tion. Fleas can also spread a blood-borne par­a­site in cats called my­coplasma, caus­ing a low red blood cell count in cats which can be fa­tal if un­treated. “Af­fected cats may dis­play non-spe­cific signs such as lethargy, pale gums, lack of ap­petite and/or in­creased res­pi­ra­tory rate,” says Dr Brian Loon from Am­ber Vet.

Flea bites cause in­tense itch­ing, es­pe­cially in the back and the base of the tail of the an­i­mal. It is trans­mit­ted through con­tact with other pets in­fested with them. Symp­toms: Scratch­ing, skin ir­ri­ta­tion, anaemia (es­pe­cially in young and small­breed pets) and hy­per­sen­si­tiv­ity re­ac­tion (se­vere al­ler­gic re­ac­tion to flea saliva where the pet gets ex­tremely itchy). Treat­ments: There are many flea treat­ment op­tions on the mar­ket—from oral to top­i­cal treat­ments, and even preventive col­lars. Dr Quek rec­om­mends oral flea pre­ven­tion med­i­ca­tion. Other treat­ments in­clude anti-itch or -in­flam­ma­tory oral med­i­ca­tion along with spe­cific sham­poos and creams for­mu­lated to com­bat fleas. Putting your pet on long-term pre­ven­tives

will not harm him. Get­ting your home thor­oughly cleaned by pest con­trol will pre­vent re­cur­ring in­fes­ta­tions.

TICKS

Ticks are par­a­sitic arthro­pods that feed on the blood of their hosts—much like fleas do. Ticks use blades of grass or veg­e­ta­tion to get high enough in or­der to get on the host an­i­mal and hide in tall grass or plants in wooded ar­eas. Once on, a tick will latch its mouth into the skin and won’t de­tach un­til it’s had its fill. They are at­tracted to warmth and mo­tion and at­tach to ar­eas with lit­tle to no hair, typ­i­cally in and around ears, in­sides of legs where it meets the body, be­tween toes and in­side skin folds.

There are over 850 species of ticks and can be hard- or soft-bod­ied. The hard-bod­ied ticks are the species that of­ten plague pets. In Singapore, the most com­mon species of tick is the brown dog tick. Ticks can cause anaemia (es­pe­cially in young and old pets), and can spread a plethora of dangerous, life-threat­en­ing ill­nesses such as Lyme dis­ease, Rocky Moun­tain spot­ted fever and tick fever— the lat­ter is most com­mon here. There are two strains of tick fever—Ehrli­chio­sis and Babesio­sis—and the brown dog tick is a car­rier of both. Ehrlichia is a bac­terium, while Babesia is a par­a­site. “These pathogens usu­ally cause a low white and red blood cell and platelet count, re­sult­ing in fever (man­i­fests as lethargy and lack of ap­petite), anaemia, bleed­ing and spon­ta­neous bruis­ing,” says Dr Loon. Tick fever is po­ten­tially fa­tal but if dis­cov­ered early, the pet can be treated.

Symp­toms: Mild to high fever, scabs from bit­ing/lick­ing skin, ex­ces­sive shak­ing of head (check ears), ir­ri­tated bumps on skin, loss of ap­petite, and swollen lymph nodes. Treat­ments: Con­sis­tent use of vet­pre­scribed spot-on or oral tick pre­ven­tives will min­imise the risk of tick fever. “Oral tick con­trol prod­ucts are more ef­fec­tive and kill ticks faster than top­i­cal ones,” ad­vises Dr Quek. He also adds that newer oral tick med­i­ca­tions are very safe com­pared to old top­i­cal washes or even spot-ons that may have more side ef­fects. Call­ing in pest con­trol to re­move ticks from your en­vi­ron­ment is key to pre­vent­ing a re­cur­ring in­fes­ta­tion.

MITES

There are four types of mites that af­fect dogs: sar­coptes sca­biei (bur­row­ing mites), de­modex ca­nis (de­modex mites), cheyletiella yas­guri (sur­face mites) and otodectes cyno­tis (ear mites). The gen­eral term for mite in­fes­ta­tions is mange. In Singapore, sar­cop­tic mange, de­mod­ec­tic mange and ear mites are the most com­mon mite in­fes­ta­tions seen in pets.

“All are con­ta­gious be­tween in­fected an­i­mals ex­cept de­modex, but none are lifethreat­ing,” says Dr Loon.

[SAR­COP­TIC MITES]

Also known as ca­nine sca­bies, sar­cop­tic mites are caused by a mite called sar­coptes sca­biei. The fe­male mite tun­nels into the dog’s skin while lay­ing eggs be­fore she dies. This process causes in­flam­ma­tion as a re­sponse to the bur­row­ing and lay­ing of eggs. These mites are highly con­ta­gious and can in­fest other an­i­mals, and even peo­ple.

Sar­cop­tic mites pre­fer hair­less ar­eas of skin, so the first place you’ll no­tice prob­lems would be at the el­bows, armpits, ears, chest, belly and/or groin of your furkid. If not treated, they can spread to the en­tire body.

Symp­toms: In­tense scratch­ing lead­ing to hair loss, skin rashes, crust for­ma­tion on the in­fected area and alope­cia (hair loss).

[DE­MOD­EC­TIC MITES]

Of­ten re­ferred to as ‘de­modex’ or ‘red mange’, de­mod­ec­tic mites are the most com­mon form of mange in dogs. This par­a­site lives deep within the hair fol­li­cles of the host an­i­mal. The mites are passed from mother to young when nurs­ing. Most of the time, these par­a­sites do not cause any harm to the dog. How­ever, since this mite is passed on dur­ing nurs­ing, even healthy pups may get mites.

Con­tract­ing de­mod­ec­tic mange is usu­ally the re­sult of an un­der­de­vel­oped im­mune sys­tem. De­mod­ec­tic mange is not con­ta­gious. There­fore, peo­ple and other

an­i­mals can­not catch it.

Symp­toms: Le­sions oc­cur­ring in patches across the face, hair loss, red­ness and scaly skin.

[EAR MITES]

Ear mites are one of the most com­mon causes of ear in­fec­tions in pets. In fact, sev­eral species of mites can live in the ear canal at once—the most com­mon be­ing otodectes cyno­tis in dogs, which causes in­tense itch­ing. These mites can be car­ried by cats, ham­sters, ger­bils, fer­rets, mice, and even rab­bits. They are highly con­ta­gious and will pass from one pet to an­other through con­tact. These crit­ters pre­fer to live in warm, dark and moist en­vi­ron­ments.

Se­vere in­fec­tions can lead to dam­age in the ear canal and drum, and may even cause deaf­ness. They are most com­monly con­tracted from the ex­ter­nal en­vi­ron­ment or in ar­eas of poor hygiene. Breeds with ears that flop are more prone to ear mite in­fes­ta­tions be­cause their ear flaps trap mois­ture in the ear canals, un­like those with perked ears which are drier. Symp­toms: Itch­ing, sore­ness in ear be­cause of rub­bing it against the floor, shak­ing head ex­ces­sively, dark brown or black ear wax and/or more ear wax in the ear than nor­mal.

Treat­ments for mites: Mite in­fec­tions can be tricky be­cause itch­i­ness caused by mites share sim­i­lar symp­toms to non­mite causes of skin and ear dis­eases. “A vet­eri­nary ex­am­i­na­tion with sam­ples of the skin/ear wax ob­tained for mi­cro­scopic ex­am­i­na­tion of mites is es­sen­tial for di­ag­no­sis,” says Dr Loon. There are var­i­ous treat­ments for mites, in­clud­ing top­i­cal or oral treat­ments. Vets will rec­om­mend the most suit­able treat­ment for the pet de­pend­ing on the sever­ity of the in­fec­tion. With new par­a­sitic drugs avail­able, it is eas­ier to treat mites these days, says Dr Quek.

MOSQUITOES

Mosquitoes are dangerous to dogs and cats be­cause they can spread heart­worm—a par­a­sitic worm that lives in the blood vessels and heart of af­fected an­i­mals af­ter be­ing bit­ten by in­fected mosquitoes. These worms may grow for sev­eral years in the heart be­fore show­ing any symp­toms. Un­treated heart­worm in pets can be fa­tal.

Dogs are nat­u­ral hosts for heart­worms, which means that they will ma­ture into adults, mate and re­pro­duce within the blood vessels and heart of ca­nines and can carry hun­dreds of heart­worms in their bod­ies at one time. Cats, on the other hand, are atyp­i­cal hosts for heart­worms. “They tend to carry much lower worm loads and, thus, screen­ing tests are not as ac­cu­rate. Di­ag­no­sis is also chal­leng­ing due to the generic na­ture of the clin­i­cal signs,” says Dr Loon.

Symp­toms: Ex­er­cise intolerance, short­ness of breath, lethargy and weight loss. They may also show signs of heart dis­ease. Treat­ments: Treat­ment is com­plex and in­volves a series of drugs, in­clud­ing antibiotics, steroids, and worm-killing in­jec­tions. “Due to the po­ten­tially life-threat­en­ing and si­lent na­ture of heart­worm dis­ease, along with po­ten­tial se­vere com­pli­ca­tions in­volved with treat­ment, pre­ven­tion is rec­om­mended for all dogs in Singapore,” ad­vises Dr Loon. Pre­ven­tion in­volves get­ting a monthly spot-on, oral preventive at vet­eri­nary la­belled doses or a yearly in­jec­tion of a slow-re­lease preventive. While pre­ven­tives are ef­fec­tive, a yearly heart­worm screen­ing test is rec­om­mended.

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