Millions of dog owners are putting themselves risk of deadly Lyme disease and tapeworm infections by failing to treat their pooches for fleas and ticks.
That’s according to a new survey by nationwide chain The Vet.
Their poll found one in seven dog owners – 14 per cent – admit they do not treat their canine for flea and tick infestations.
With an estimated 8.5 million dogs in the UK, it could add up to 1.2 million animals not being protected against the parasite.
That’s despite the fact that flea infestations can spread tapeworms to humans, and tick bites can prove fatal to both dogs and their owners.
And almost two-thirds of those who didn’t bother to treat their pet thought that because they’d never had fleas or ticks before it ‘wasn’t really necessary’.
Top five reasons dog owners aren’t protecting their animals against fleas and ticks, according to a survey by The Vet
1. “My dog’s never had fleas or ticks so it’s really not necessary” – 59%
2. “Treatment is too expensive” – 24%
3. “My dog doesn’t socialise with other dogs” – 19%
4. “We don’t have fleas and ticks in my area so there’s no point” – 15%
5. “My house is too clean for fleas/ticks to survive” – 6%
Dr Bethany Birch, Head Vet at ‘The Vet’ veterinary surgery in Warrington, Cheshire, says the figures should be a ‘wake-up call’ for owners.
She said, “It really is very simple – if you own a dog, you should be protecting your pet against fleas and ticks.
“They’re not just an inconvenience – these pests can cause major physical harm to both you and your pet in the worst case scenarios.
“But as our stats show, many thousands of dog owners are failing to do so, which is of great concern.
“The good news is that there are many effective control treatments available, many which protect against both fleas and ticks at the same time.
“I’d urge dog owners to educate themselves of the dangers.”
Fleas are blood sucking parasites that can cause considerable discomfort for pets.
Within 24 hours of its first blood meal, the female flea can begin laying eggs at a rate of 40 to 50 per day, laying an average of 2000 eggs in her 2-3 month lifespan.
Dogs and cats pick them up from infested environments such as your garden, the local park, a friend’s house – any place where an animal that has fleas, such as a rabbit, hedgehog, fox or another cat or dog, may be found.
They’re responsible for itching and scratching, chewing and biting, which can then result in areas of hair loss.
Some dogs go on to suffer ‘Flea Allergy Dermatitis’ a very common and unpleasant skin condition caused by an allergy to flea saliva.
Severe flea infestations can even cause anaemia, especially in young puppies and kittens.
And if fleas are ingested by the dog during grooming, they can transmit tapeworm to the pet. Worse still, if tapeworm-infected fleas are ingested by humans – most commonly children – they can lead to tapeworm transmission to people, too.
Don’t let the cold weather lull you into a false sense of security, either – fleas can survive for several months without a host, thrive in dark spaces around homes, and love nooks and crannies to hide in while they lie in wait for a warm-blooded host.
Meanwhile ticks are spider-like, egg-shaped creepy crawlies common in woodland, grassland and heath areas, but can also be found in your garden if you live in an area with lots of wildlife.
They are active throughout the year, causing diseases like Lyme disease and babesiosis.
The Vet’s Dr Birch, who provide free flea checks at all of their branches, adds, “Spot on treatments, tablets and collars are available and it’s best to consult your vet about which is most suitable for your pet.”
The Vet’s survey – of 1,000 UK dog owners and conducted by OnePoll – found that 43 per cent of those who do treat their pets for fleas do so using ‘over the counter products from a local supermarket or online’ rather than purchasing from a vet.
But Dr Birch says, “Dog owners need to be aware that some treatments – often the most effective and containing the most active ingredients – cannot be purchased from pet shops or supermarkets and instead must be purchased from a vet.
“You need to ask yourself, ‘Is this supermarket product going to do the job it’s intended for?’
“Some flea and tick treatments may not be suitable for your dog, too, so it’s important you consult your vet to get the right protection, the first time.”
You may also need to treat your house, not just your pet.
Jessica Frame, CEO of the Vet, says, “People often forget about treating their homes, too.
“Once your animal has had fleas, there’s probably eggs in your carpets, your sofas, your long curtains, and even your bed, which can be off-putting to say the least.
“We’d advise people to spray their homes with a good, legitimate anti-flea treatment, which you can pick up from a veterinary clinic.
“If you do suspect you’ve got fleas in your home, remember that extremely high heat will kill both fleas and their eggs.
“Wash and dry your pet’s bedding and blankets on a high heat and do the same for any clothes that might have come into contact with the creatures.”