Monday, February 06, 2006

General Health Care: General Health Care: Parasites, External – part II

Dogs - Man’s best friend: General Health Care: General Health Care: Parasites, External – part II

Nienke Parma

Symptoms of a flea infestation are scratching and biting, especially under the chin, behind ears and at the base of the spine, as a result of the itching. Shedding and bald spots may occur, sometimes with scabs. Detection of fleas with the naked eye is often difficult. Their presence shows also by their excretions, i.e. small black sand-like dots in the coat. Some animals develop a flea allergy, causing severe itch after only one bite. The affected dog or cat continues scratching and biting, especially around the base of the spine, and secondary bacterial skin infection can develop resulting in bald patches and a damaged or thickened and blackened skin. Heavy flea infestations can cause anemia (low red blood cell count) and fleas can transmit tapeworm which can sap much of their host’s energy.

Lice cause intense itching and bald spots may develop where the hair is rubbed off due to scratching and biting. The blood-sucking lice not only cause severe itch but also anemia and loss of condition. The presence of lice, and their eggs attached to the hair, can be seen with the naked eye.

Ticks are horrible in the sense that they can transmit several blood diseases,
including Erhliciosis canis. Some dogs develop an allergy to the tick’s salivation, similar to that of a flea allergy. Heavy infestations can result in severe blood loss and subsequent anemia. Other symptoms of the tick diseases are loss of appetite, eye and nasal discharge, high fever, bleeding tendencies, enlargement of the spleen and liver, swelling of the limbs joints and muscle pains, paralysis, changes in the blood chemistry due to interference with the bone marrow and liver function, seizures and finally death.

Sarcoptic mites cause severe itching. Initially only some red points in the skin are noticeable or a moth-eaten coat on the edges of the ear flap. Later raw skin and hair loss due to severe scratching, biting, rubbing and licking can occur with an increasing risk on secondary bacterial infection on the affected places.

Symptoms of Demodectic mange appear as hairless patches often starting around the eye, lips, corners of the mouth and on the front legs, giving it a moth-eaten appearance. Generallythere is very little itching. In severe infestations numerous patches appear on the head, legs and trunk which can coalesce to form large areas of hair loss. The skin breaks down and sores, crusts and draining sinus tracts are formed – presenting a most severe and disabling condition. It is a very common disease in dogs. Dogs can be carriers without showing any symptoms.

When a healthy coat shows one or more small circular bald gray crusty patches, it indicates Ringworm. There are usually no signs of itching or irritation. This fungus cannot be seen with the naked eye, but their presence can be shown under the microscope, or with a Wood’s lamp.

To be continued …

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