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Leave the fleas behind: Why it is important to make sure your pet is parasite-free before travelling

Fleas and ticks are common external parasites that infest our furry friends. Regular grooming and treatment for parasites are essential to keep your pet cat or dog healthy. It is important to make sure your pet is free from fleas and ticks before beginning your travel plans because many countries do not allow pets that harbour parasites. If you are planning to travel to a different country with your pet, treatment against ticks and fleas is critical; your pet could face extended quarantine time and treatment at your expense if he or she is found to have fleas or ticks.

Fleas and flea dirt

Fleas are every pet owner's nightmare; regular grooming and flea treatments are vital to ensure your pet is free from fleas. Flea season peaks during the hot summer months, though they can affect your pets all-year round. Fleas are small, brown ectoparasites that jump from one animal to another. A flea bite can cause intense itching, and usually, the first sign of a flea infestation is when your pet dog or cat starts scratching continuously. A severe flea infestation can lead to severe scratching, inflammation and secondary skin infection.

Unfortunately, fleas are present everywhere, and it is next to impossible to avoid them. In addition to being irritating, fleas spread diseases in dogs, cats, and even in humans. Giving your pet dog or cat preventive treatment for fleas is one of the most effective strategies for managing flea infestations.

How to recognise fleas on your pet

Fleas are small brown insects which can be seen moving around on the surface of the skin. Both dogs and cats attract fleas. Fleas are as big as the head of a pin and are incredibly fast jumpers and can move from one host to another in quick succession. Flea eggs and pupae live on in the environment for several years. Fleas only spend a small part of their lifecycle on pets and live the rest of the time in the surroundings. An effective flea treatment, therefore, has to eliminate eggs and pupae, as well as adult fleas.

The best way to recognise fleas is to look for the presence of flea dirt on your pet; part your pet’s hair and look for dark specks of dirt on the surface of the skin. If you see little black or brown bits on the skin, carefully remove some and place it on a wet paper towel. If the specks spread out like a bloodstain in a few minutes, it is flea dirt. Flea dirt is flea faeces and is made of digested blood, and is most commonly found on the pet’s tail and stomach. Sometimes, even if you cannot see any fleas, the presence of flea dirt confirms a flea infestation.

Treatment and prevention

Since fleas are everywhere, it is almost impossible to avoid them. The best way to protect your dog or cat from fleas is to examine, groom and give preventive treatments periodically. There are several interventions for flea treatment such as topical medication, oral medication, prescription and non-prescription medication. Check with your vet for the most effective treatment.

It is not enough to treat your pet for fleas; it is equally important to make sure your home and yard are flea-free too. Since fleas spend only a part of their entire life cycle on pets, it is vital to make sure you rid your home of the eggs, larvae and pupae to eliminate all fleas successfully. Wash and shampoo all carpets, sofas, and pet bedding regularly with hot water and steam. Sometimes, a chemical treatment might be necessary if the infestation is very severe.

Some flea medicines target adult fleas, and others work on flea eggs, larvae as well as adult fleas. Choosing the right medication for your pet is vital. Preventive flea treatments target the eggs and the larvae and break the cycle of reproduction. They work well as long as your pet is not in contact with new fleas. Prescription flea treatment is recommended for pets that are exposed to fleas continuously. Check with your vet for the best preventive or prescriptive care for your pet before travelling.

Ticks and tick fever

Ticks are ectoparasites that latch on to your pet’s skin using its mouthparts and suck blood. Ticks are very dangerous and can cause serious illness in dogs and cats if they are allowed to multiply unchecked. They are common in grasslands and, pets that lead an active outdoor life are most vulnerable to ticks.

Ticks are brown spider-like eight-legged parasites that are difficult to remove once they have latched on to the skin. Talk to your vet about properly removing the tick; sometimes when you pull on a tick improperly the body parts are left behind on your pet. They do not jump or fly; they spread by climbing or dropping on to your pet when he or she brushes past tall grass and bushes.

It is important to groom your dog often and check for ticks after every walk. Ticks usually attach themselves to the paws, neck, and ears of the dog. If you are planning an international trip with your pet, it is crucial to complete a tick treatment before travelling.

Uncontrolled tick infestations can severely affect your pet; ticks can cause illnesses such as tick fever, anaemia, paralysis, and other problems. Ticks also spread diseases such as Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, Bartonella and Lyme disease.

Prevention and protection against ticks

Since it is challenging to limit exposure to ticks, the best preventive action is to check for ticks after every walk. Most vets often recommend a spot-on solution as an effective protective treatment against ticks. During tick season, avoid long walks in wooded areas, and always check for ticks after every walk. Check with your vet for the best tick protection and prevention strategy for your pet.

Flea and tick control before travel

Keeping your pet parasite-free is a great way to ensure good health; it becomes even more critical during international travel. Here are some tips to follow to prepare your pooch for international travel:

  • Talk to your vet for advice on effective flea and tick treatments. Make sure you treat the surroundings too to avoid re-infection.
  • Groom your dog or cat every day and check for fleas and ticks. If you find ticks, use a tick remover to remove them correctly.
  • When you take your doggy for a walk, avoid dense and woody areas for a few weeks before travelling to decrease the chances of tick infection.
  • Use tick and flea collars or spot-on medication for a few weeks before travel to keep the nasties away from your pet.
  • Wash your pet’s bedding and toys in hot water and steam if you are planning on bringing them along with you.

Many countries such as New Zealand are purportedly flea-free and do not allow pets with fleas and ticks to enter the country. New Zealand, for instance, requires every pet to have two treatments against internal and external parasites to enter the country. Pets that enter such countries with stringent bio-security regulations with fleas and ticks will face extended quarantine and treatment at your expense, or worse turned back.

Travelling to an international location with a pet cat or dog involves a series of steps, and making sure your pet is parasite-free is an integral part of the process. If you are planning to transport your pet to a different country, or need more information on pet transport policies, get in touch with at Petraveller for a comprehensive pet relocation plan.