From fleas to conkers, the autumn perils

WITH the onset of cooler autumn weather, it is tempting to start dropping our guard against the various parasitic critters that love to spend time variously biting, sucking and burrowing into our pets.

Over the past week or so we’ve been seeing some intensely itchy dogs suffering from small infestations of harvest mites. These tiny mites are very active in long grass, and tend to congregate on the ears, eyelids, abdomen, and especially the feet and are easily identified as bright orange dots clinging tightly to the skin. The good news is that they can be very easily treated, although they are also fairly fond of humans.

Perhaps surprisingly, autumn is the peak time for ticks. They are generally found in areas of woodland, heath and grassland, waiting for an animal to brush past so they can jump on and feed. They attach using their mouthparts and will feed on blood from their host for several days before finally dropping off.

Unfortunately, ticks can cause problems in two ways: firstly they can cause a lot of irritation where they attach and secondly, and perhaps more importantly, ticks can carry infectious diseases which can be transmitted to pets and humans. The most common is Lyme Disease, a bacterial infection that causes a variety of symptoms including abdominal and chest pain. There are more severe and serious diseases that are transmitted by ticks abroad.

In order to minimise the risk of tick borne diseases, regular applications of spot-on treatments will both kill tcks and also help repel them – we can advise you which preparations are best for your pet. If you find a tick, removal is best attempted with a specially designed tick remover; just pulling them off can leave the mouthparts behind. It’s much better to pull very gently while rotating the tick (either clockwise or anti-clockwise is fine, contrary to the popular myth).

Fleas are still present in huge numbers in early autumn so you need to keep treating for them too!

A couple of other things to bear in mind at this time of year are toxic hazards. Many car owners top their radiators up with anti-freeze before winter. Any spillage is very palatable to pets, and even small amounts can cause kidney failure and death. Autumn fruits such as apples and conkers will cause digestive upsets; we’ve seen a few dogs who seem to be quite partial to eating conkers!

We are currently seeing a huge number of rabbits with this devastating disease. In a morning consult list of 40 patients at Whorral Bank, we saw three in one day and four in another day. While it is sometimes possible to nurse rabbits through this condition, it is most often fatal.

Myxomatosis is spread by biting insects, in particular rabbit fleas.

We strongly urge you to get your rabbit vaccinated. At Robson & Prescott we have a new vaccine that gives protection agaist rabbit haemorrhagic disease as well as myxomatosis. Protection against both diseases lasts for a whole year.

Our newest branch surgery has recently opened in Staithes Lane, opposite our old building. The intention is to provide a town centre consultation service for people who don’t want the hassle of coming up to Whorral Bank. We’re open all day Monday to Friday for prescription collections, advice and over-the-counter medications.

CHRIS GREEN

Director and senior vet