“Every year my horse comes out in welts and loses hair on his back; he also scratches against trees and the fence. He comes up in many welts. How do I stop this?” – Susan Meredith, Galston.
This is typical of horses that have allergic reactions to bites from midges, although flies and even mosquitoes can add to this recurring summer affliction of many horses. It is commonly known as “Queensland Itch” as the species of insect that causes the problem (Culicodes spp) is more common in our northern states.
In bad cases your veterinarian can relieve symptoms with prednisolone injections and continue with granules. In all cases, rinsing the horse frequently with an insecticidal rinse is essential to decrease the attack by the midges. If your horse is stabled, a fan can assist in keeping down the number of critters getting to your horse. If it’s a paddock horse, a light rug that has been soaked in an insecticide can also help to avoid these bugs chewing on your pony.
“I have tried various washes, sprays and spot-ons, but I still have had ticks on my dogs. Is there a better way to avoid ticks as I’m terrified that one of my dogs could die from tick paralysis?” — John Edwards, Dural.
Let me be blunt: this year is gearing up to be a dreadful year in the Hills for tick infestation so watch yourself, your children and your pets.
There are three types of ticks common to the Hills region — Common Brown Dog Tick, the Bush Tick and the deadly Paralysis Tick. All three suck blood from you or your pet if they bury into the skin. All three can carry diseases.
The last one, paralysis tick, causes a paralysis that starts in the back legs of your dog or cat (or the legs of a human if they get badly affected with tick poison), but as the poison works up the nerve tracks, it eventually causes asphyxiation (unable to breathe) as the nerve to the diaphragm (the muscle that helps you breathe) becomes involved, so the affected animal dies by suffocation.
Certain animals are immune to the tick poison (bandicoots and opossums) so they are a reservoir for these nasty blood-sucking parasites.
Fortunately, last summer did see a decline in the number of tick cases in dogs with those people who used the oral medications. The new generation of tick prevention has resulted in a vast decrease in paralysis cases in dogs. Unfortunately, many are too toxic for cats, but speak with your local veterinarian in either case. They can best advise you on how to prevent your pet becoming affected by ticks.
And be warned, ticks are now being found in areas that were once thought to be tick free. No matter what method of tick prevention you use, and you should use something, check your pets (and your children, for that matter) daily for any ticks burying into their skin.
This year is gearing up to be a dreadful year in the Hills for tick infestation so watch yourself, your children and your pets.
“Veterinary fees can get expensive so I’ve been thinking about taking out pet health insurance, but I really wonder, is it worthwhile?” — Joanne Muscat, Baulkham Hills.
A dog is hit by a car; a cat is attacked by a dog; a family pet is bitten by a snake; the dog that is my support and always there when I’m lonely is dying of tick paralysis.
These are things that occur every summer, and can at times afflict our pets all year round. Each one can be treated and often the pet saved. But it costs money. The bill for a tick case could easily be in excess of a thousand dollars, two thousand plus for a snake bite, while dog attacks or car accidents could be several thousand dollars.
Veterinary science continually hits new high-tech levels, with such things as MRIs, C-T scans, amazing soft tissue reconstructive surgery procedures, ophthalmologists that can return sight to blind pets, orthopaedic specialist surgeries and even neurosurgery. The only thing it takes to access these procedures for your pet is money.
Pet health insurance, however, has made these items affordable for you and your pet. There are few worse things for an owner to have to say than, “I’m sorry, you’ll have to put him down. I just can’t afford the treatment.”
And there is nothing worse for a veterinarian than to carry out such an act knowing the pet could have been saved. Is pet insurance worth it, you ask? Cheap, if you value your pet’s life.
Long Haired Dogs in Summer:
Groom regularly with a pin brush – tangled, matted hair is unbearably hot.
Wash and condition once weekly – dirt adds to heat in the coat.
Do not hose to cool; this only increases humidity and matts the coat. Rather, give them a cool mat to lie on.
Keep them “flea free” and use an insulated kennel you can clean – plastic or steel kennels are way too hot. Fleas cause skin problems that actually increase the temperature of the skin.
Consider having the dog clipped. A short coat will go a long way to keeping your pet cool but avoid doing it in very late summer as your dog will need his coat come winter.
Robert Zammit was born in Egypt to Italian parents, despite the Maltese name. He arrived in Australia in the late 1950s, graduated from Sydney University 40 years ago and has worked and lived in the Hills ever since. He still loves it — the work, the people and the area. He lives at his veterinary practice with his family, many dogs, cats, birds and the occasional very strange critter.