Fleas, ticks and your working dog

Fleas, ticks and your working dog
By Barbara Cater, Veterinarian, Anexa Vets Ngaruawahia

Fleas and ticks are not the most exciting topic but they do have an effect on our working dogs and in turn other stock on the farm.

Often we think that fleas are a summer problem – recent studies have found that flea numbers peak in summer with 92% of dogs having fleas.
Although flea numbers drop off dramatically in cooler months, spring and autumn percentages of dogs with fleas were, 76% and 68% respectively.
In winter 49% of dogs still have fleas. So as you watch your dogs working your stock, remember that nearly half of them are likely to have itchy fleas.

Why do we care?

  • Fleas carry tapeworm (Dipylidium Caninum)
  • Fleas cause skin irritation/discomfort and in extreme cases weight loss and loss of appetite due to constant itching.
  • Dogs that are stopping to scratch and itch are less productive at work.
  • Would you want to be itchy all the time?
Ticks, in New Zealand (Haemaphysalis longicornis), are found particularly in the North Island and show the greatest prevalence through July to March.
Dogs are one of the host species (carriers) for the tick, which means they pose health risks to themselves and other stock. Ticks can live off a host for extended periods without feeding, so anything we can do to try to break the cycle is advantageous to all farm stock and working animal alike.

Why do we care?

  • Ticks cause disease in livestock – anaemia and weight loss (especially in fawns and lambs), skin irritation and in severe cases death. Theileria in cattle is also a real concern on many properties. These problems affect not only the individual animal but also overall farm productivity.
When treating fleas and ticks on our farm dogs, we ideally use a long-acting product to cover the lifecycle of both species to try to break the cycle of reinfection/infestation on animals and in the pasture.
If you have farm dogs that like to swim in troughs and get wet, using an oral product (chewy treat) is better than a liquid on the skin as each time the dog is washed/swims or gets wet it reduces the effectiveness of the product
For dogs that don’t get wet – topical six-month applications are available - which once applied can’t get lost.
There are even collars that last eight months which sits next to your normal collar.

Talk to your farm veterinarian about flea and tick products for your working dog. You will help improve your dog's comfort and health while keeping the health of your stock in mind as well.

Date Added: Wednesday, 4th March 2020