Thousands of pets in the UK could be suffering from chronic distress caused by flea and tick infestations, experts warn.
With the forthcoming warm weather expected to lead to a population explosion of fleas and ticks in the UK, owners need to be aware of the signs of irritation and long-term stress caused by parasite infestations in their pet to avoid lasting behaviour changes.
Distress in pets brought about by flea and tick bites can lead to loss of appetite, lethargy and a reduced interest in social activity, they added.
Animal behaviourist and pet trainer Karen Wild has been studying dogs for more than 20 years and has discovered both cats and dogs can have their lives seriously affected by flea and tick infestations if not treated soon enough.
Karen says, “Stress is a terrible condition for humans but we can express our feelings and get professional help in resolving chronic problems. Imagine what these symptoms are like in a dog or cat when they can’t tell us how they feel.
“I’ve noticed that pets who have experienced tick bites or flea infestations in the past can show signs of repetitive scratching and distress for months afterwards. Some animals who have suffered parasite problems exhibit stress symptoms such as nibbling or licking areas of their body, even when they no longer have any fleas. This can be prolonged and traumatic for everyone involved.”
This dog became depressed after suffering from a flea allergy
Rescue dog, Rune, a 13 year old Staffie cross unfortunately suffered from the effects of flea bites, her owner Nikki Graham shares their story.
“When Rune was admitted to Wood Green Animal Shelter in December 2016 after her previous owner sadly passed away, she was suffering horrifically from a chronic skin condition which left her body covered in scabs and thinning hair. The vets carried out various tests and she was diagnosed with a severe flea bite allergy. Rune had to undergo various treatments to ease her skin condition and all was going well, but unfortunately after the initial treatment had finished, Rune had developed periorbital dermatitis and began chewing her feet continuously, and scratching at her skin which led to her becoming very depressed.
“Although Rune is feeling better now after months of treatment, my vet has advised that due to the severe skin condition caused by flea bites, she will need to be on medication for the rest of her life and may continue to bite her skin occasionally due to the trauma experienced. It is better to prevent flea or tick bites occurring than to let an animal develop and suffer the effects of parasite bites the same way Rune has.”
5 ways to tell if your dog has a fleas or ticks
1. Abnormal scratching
2. Small, cream/grey ‘lump’ attached to your dog’s skin (a sign your dog has a tick)
3. Very small brown/black insects crawling in coat (a sign of fleas)
4. Excessive licking or biting at the skin
5. Droppings or ‘flea dirt’ in your dog’s coat
Veterinary surgeon Vicky Lees says your dog’s body language can be a sign of fleas or ticks saying, “Ticks aren’t just a nuisance; they pose real health complications to both you and your pet including vector-borne diseases such as Lyme Disease. Speak to your vet about a preventative parasite treatment to help stop ticks biting to protect against the spread of these diseases.”