Ticks in South Africa
Ticks are small ectoparasites that live on the blood of mammals and birds, sometimes even on reptiles and amphibians. There are many different tick species in South Africa that can be found in the veldt and in your garden. Yes, even in your garden! Birds and rodents carrying ticks can pass through your garden and leave these nasty blood suckers behind, which can find their way to your pooch. Even just one tick attached to your dog, sucking its blood could result in serious diseases. And what’s more disconcerting is that these horrible ectoparasites can be found all year round! Not just in the warmth of our South African summers but even in our “warmer” winter months, which is why it is absolutely essential to do adequate tick control throughout the year.
Diseases Your Dog can Pick up from Ticks
When a tick latches onto your pooch and begins to suck, parasites can go into the bloodstream and attack the blood cells. Ticks can carry many different diseases. A common disease is tick bite fever which causes the destruction of red blood cells. Tick bite fever is the common term for Biliary, Babesia or in Afrikaans, Bosluiskoors. It can result in a severe anaemia and a multitude of other complications. Some symptoms may include pale gums, not eating, fever and lethargy. Another disease passed from ticks to your fur friend is Ehrlichia which is referred to as Bosluisbytkoors in Afrikaans. This disease is a blood parasite that attacks white blood cells and platelets. These are both severe, unpredictable diseases that may be fatal to your dog and require immediate vet attention.
Certain types of ticks have large mouth parts and if they attach onto your dog, the area of skin where the tick latches can become a large, painful, necrotic wound.
In exceptional cases where there is severe tick infestation, the ticks can suck a large amount of blood from your dog resulting in a severe anaemia.
Preventing Tick Induced Diseases
There are many forms of tick control for you to choose from for your precious pooch. Spot on applications such as Frontline, Activyl, fiprotec and Advocate are ampoules of liquid that are placed on the skin on the back of the neck, or up to 3 places along their back for large breed dogs. Spray on tick controls such as Frontline Spray or Fiprotec Spray are sprayed all over your dog and can last for up to a month. For spot on or spray on tick controls to work effectively, your pooch can’t swim or be bathed 3 days before and 3 days after the application. Most of these products are highly effective if used correctly.
Dip tick controls can be used but are not ideal. They need to be applied weekly unless your dog gets wet, in which case it will need to be reapplied. Dips need to be mixed at the correct ratio or they can cause poisoning in your dog. They may be time consuming and smell bad but are cost effective.
Tick collars are not recommended because their effectiveness is not reliable, however there are veterinary products registered for use. Stay away from supermarket bought tick control products as they tend to be inferior in quality and effectiveness.
Vet Recommended Tick Control
Our vet, Dr. Roxanne Jones, recommends oral tick control tablets such as Bravecto or Nexguard which are excellent, new products available in South Africa. They are exceptionally safe for your dog, effective and fast acting. When your pooch eats the palatable tablet, medication gets distributed throughout the bloodstream. Then, when the tick attacks and latches onto your dog, the blood it sucks poisons the tick so that it dies and falls off. Unlike the other methods of tick control, you don’t have to worry about it washing off. You only need to give your precious pooch Nexguard tablets once a month or Bravecto once every 10 to 12 weeks.