Do dogs really need regular tick and flea treatment?

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Ticks, fleas and internal worms may be tiny but they have the potential to seriously maim or even kill your beloved pet.

And with a new deadly strain of canine ehrlichiosis – a disease transmitted through infected ticks such as the brown dog tick – making its way through Australia, having a treatment plan in place can help prevent a lot of heartache and financial burden.

Infected dogs can present with abnormal bleeding, lethargy, loss of appetite, pain and weight loss, leading to death.

Dr Magdoline Awad, chief veterinary officer at Greencross The Pet Company and SMARTDaily’s weekly pet columnist, explains how and why you should start a prevention plan for your dog.

I have never given my dog heartworm or flea and tick tablets. I know I’m meant to but my cavoodle, Holly, is now six and has never seemed to have a problem. Is it really important to start doing this or have we left it too late?

It is never too late to start preventive flea, tick, intestinal worm or heartworm medications. If Holly has never been on parasite preventatives and has never had a problem with ticks or fleas then she is very lucky.

However, luck can change very quickly. For example, when you move house or visit a high risk tick area. When vets say prevention is better than the cure, it is because many vets have treated pets with heartworm, flea allergies, intestinal worm burdens and tick paralysis.

Fleas can cause severe allergies and anaemia in very young or small animals with heavy infestations. Paralysis ticks are prevalent on the east coast of Australia and if treated early many pets can recover.

However, in some cases, even with aggressive and intensive treatment, some pets with tick paralysis succumb to paralysis and die. Tick paralysis treatment can be expensive and some dogs require ventilation when they can’t breathe.

Holly may already have heartworm but you may not know this as it is a slow onset disease. Heartworm is carried by mosquitoes so any dog can be at risk of this potentially fatal disease. Intestinal worms can cause weight loss and anaemia among others and are also transmissible to humans. The good news for Holly is that it isn’t too late to start using flea, tick, intestinal worm and heartworm preventives.

It is best to have her checked by your vet and a blood test is recommended before starting any heartworm prevention.

Many of the new tablets or spot-on medications will cover Holly for most parasites and are very safe and effective.

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