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Grooming and parasites...

Charlie had been badly neglected. Once a coat becomes as neglected as this there may be no alternative to cutting away the matted coat.

An engorged tick, actual size.  

Grooming and parasites

As well as keeping them healthy and clean, regular grooming helps to build an important bond with our animals and at least a small amount needs to be done every day. After a run your dog needs to be checked all over especially feet, ears and eyes. Check too for grass-seeds in the ears which can lead to serious injury. Many dogs are susceptible to ear infections and a healthy ear should be clean without redness and sweet-smelling.

As well as keeping the coat free of tangles pay attention to claws, particularly 'dew' claws, and remove excessive fur from beneath the feet which can otherwise lead to lameness.

All dogs pick up parasites from time to time and fleas find our warm, centrally-heated homes extremely comfortable. The secret to controlling fleas is regular inspection and early treatment. Flea droppings, tiny black specks often found around the neck that turn red when dropped onto wet tissue, are a sure sign of fleas.

Flea-sprays are available from vets and pet-shops but all should be used with great care according to the instructions. If the infestation is severe you will need another more powerful insecticide for carpets and bedding but this shouldn't be sprayed directly onto your dog. If your dog is hugged by small children then 'Program', which is given by mouth, or 'Frontline', a spray, are thought to be the safest but in the UK are still only available from vets.

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An engorged tick, enlarged.    


Any dog that is exercised where there has been wildlife, sheep or deer is likely to pick up ticks from time to time. Dogs with heavy coats are most often affected and the ticks most difficult to find.

Before attaching themselves, ticks look rather like tiny spiders but once engorged with blood are a pinkish-grey colour with bodies the size of a small pea. Although harmless in themselves, ticks in some parts of the UK now carry the very serious Lyme Disease and should be removed as quickly as possible.

Due to the risk of this disease the old advice of allowing ticks to drop off by themselves no longer applies. If you inspect your dog carefully after walks you may spot ticks moving in the coat before they attach themselves.

Removing the tick while still alive is the preferred way as a dying tick may regurgitate fluids and increase the risk of transferring Lyme Disease. Be careful not to squeeze the body of the tick for the same reason. To remove them, grip below the body as close to your dog's skin as possible using long finger-nails or tweezers then pull and twist to release. The strong mouth parts of the tick can make this difficult and can be made easier with special tick removers available from petshops. Try to ensure the head of the tick is removed as well as the body. Dab with a mild antiseptic and wash hands afterwards.

'Fox mange' is a serious condition caused by the sarcoptic mange mite. The mite burrows under the skin and so is extremely difficult to eradicate except with the powerful insecticides available from vets. If your dog develops reddened or flaking skin you should consult your vet as quickly as possible.

Every dog needs regular treatment for roundworm, toxocara canis. Tablets that control both roundworm and tapeworm are available from vets, pet-shops and chemists. If you have young children the recommendation is to worm your dog every three months. As a further precaution, all mess should be removed immediately from the garden or anywhere that children play.

Keeping our dogs healthy makes them safe for everyone that handles them.


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