South East Rivers Trust (& the Wandle Trust)

Protecting you, your pets (and your purse) from those pesky parasites.

Pets attract parasites and protecting our pets from parasites is part of the deal we make when we become responsible for them. There’s a wide range of products to choose from, designed to fit with your lifestyle and preferences.


Who doesn’t love to see the fun dogs have (less likely to be cats), splashing around in the cool water and enjoying a wonderful swim. But be careful – splashing about in the local river means your pet’s protection is being washed off.


Pesticides for pets are designed to provide protection over a range of time periods. They can include powders you dust into their coats and bedding, vials of liquid to apply to their skin, collars treated with pesticide designed to be absorbed slowly through the skin, and even tablets to give in their food or with a treat. There is such a multitude of products and preparations available, both over the counter and from your vet, that it is beyond the scope of this article to cover each one. To ensure you make the most of the products; the advice is to read the label.


So what’s the problem?

 When our dogs wash themselves in our rivers, they are washing these chemicals into the water, and these chemicals are designed to kill insects. The juvenile stages of many insects live in our valuable streams, rivers, ponds, lakes and canals; and could all be affected by your dog’s treatment. Not only does that threaten beautiful insects like dragonflies and damselflies themselves – the juvenile stages form a vital part of the food chain that keeps our watery places healthy and full of life; feeding the fish and kingfishers that gladden our visits to the banks. 


There seems to be a trend towards milder winters (until this year that is!)– especially here in the South East. One apparent consequence (at least it seems to me) is that the tick population starts being a nuisance earlier in the year, and in greater numbers. Pets attract parasites – it’s one of those things – like having to clear up after them in public places – they go with the territory, and if we are responsible owners, we just get on and deal with it. Worms, ticks and fleas – are you starting to itch yet? Not the nicest of subjects, but those of us with pets are pretty familiar with it.


What isn’t always so obvious are the hidden side effects that these pests can have. We’ve been well educated about the need to worm our pets to protect humans, especially children, from the dangers of diseases carried by worms that can lead to blindness and other health problems in humans. Most people regularly protect their pets from worms. Another key disease that can be caught by your dog, but also transferred to humans is Lymes disease, carried by ticks. Initial symptoms can be mistaken for flu- except that it’s most common in the summer, rather than the winter. There’s usually a characteristic rash, clearly visible in humans (no fur) as an expanding red ring that develops around the site of the bite. Some of the more serious complications that can arise though may not develop until some time later and can include kidney/liver problems.


Ticks are common where sheep and deer graze, including urban parks like Richmond, and can be carried into the home. If undiscovered, they will drop off your pet when full and can be (but rarely are) transferred to their owners. Tick bites in humans are more often caught directly while walking through undergrowth such as bracken and coarse, tall grass.

In the same way, different treatments will have different effective lives, and different times to be absorbed by the body. So, in this sunny weather, if your dogs take that swim – or have the bath – too soon after you’ve applied the treatment, it will just wash off ; wasting your good money, leaving your pet vulnerable and damaging your local streams.


Never despair – and don’t let it put you off the delight and love your pet can bring you. Just like for worms, there are a host of preventative treatments available, either ‘over-the-counter’ or prescribed by your vet. Many now come as a combination with protection for fleas included. One thing that is important is to read the information that comes with the treatment. Don’t worry, it’s not nearly as scary as the leaflets that come with your aspirins etc, warning you of all the possible dire side effects. They do give valuable information however. For example, some of the early treatments for ticks and fleas for dogs were toxic to cats, so it was important not to let your cat lick your dog for a given time after applying the treatment.


So don’t forget, protect your pets and the environment by not washing pest treatments off your pets before they have time to be absorbed. Because there are many different treatments, there’s no hard and fast rule that applies to all. So CHECK the packaging and follow the guidelines!


Moragh Stirling