Fleas & Ticks
Q: Are flea powders and sprays still effective?
A: Not only are the older products less effective than the new generation of flea treatments, they are also up to 200 times more toxic. This is because their active ingredients are much less specific, so have the potential to affect not only the flea but the cat or dog as well. The newer products are targeted directly at the flea, some preventing proper functioning of the nervous system, others interfering with the development of the eggs and larvae, while having little or no effect on the animals themselves.
The other major advantage of the new generation flea products is their ease of use. The development of slow-release antiflea products means that the simple squeeze of a tube onto the skin at the back of the neck every few weeks, or a six-monthly injection or a monthly tablet can take the place of that dreadful battle you used to have, holding down a reluctant cat while you attempted to get a good coverage of powder. As always, however, it is important to use a combination of products that will both kill adult fleas on your pets and in the environment, and prevent the development of more fleas by breaking the flea life cycle.
Q: I thought ticks were only found on dogs in the country, but recently saw one on a city dog which had been out in the forest. Id never seen one before. Can you tell me a bit about them and what to do if a dog gets one.
A: Most ticks found in New Zealand are cattle ticks, which is to say that they need cattle in order to complete their life cycles, and may be found on grass in areas where cattle have grazed. They will however attach themselves to other animals if theyre available, dogs included. Ticks look like dark brown spiders, with eight short legs. They attach themselves to an animal by the pointed mouthparts on their heads, and their round bodies expand as they suck up blood from their -host", so they end up looking a bit like a small brown cyst.
Ticks should be killed before detaching them from the dog - otherwise the mouth parts of the tick tend to get left behind in the skin of the dog where they may cause irritation and infection. Ticks will be killed by many of the flea products available from your vet, although applying methylated spirit directly onto the tick (not the whole dog!) will also do the trick.