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Five top tips to keep flea and tick menace at bay as we hit the great outdoors


By Hector MacKenzie

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The great outdoors are a great lurebut caution can pay dividends.
The great outdoors are a great lurebut caution can pay dividends.

DEVOID of predators like lions and tigers, the countryside we're currently so attracted to is not without its dangers.

Lurking out there are a handful of tiny critters from whom you need to protect yourself and your pets from.

With most foreign holidays on hold this summer, walkers, gardeners and those outside exploring across Scotland are making the most of the great outdoors – but are being warned by experts to take extra care in preparing themselves against fleas and ticks.

A nuisance at best, fleas and ticks have the potential to be very dangerous or life-threatening at worst. They attach themselves to you and your pet, can quickly infest your home, and are present in all counties across the UK, from Land’s End to John o’ Groats.

Those with pets may already be well aware of the critters, which thrive in our favourite outdoor spots, but the warm humid weather we’ve had this summer has created ideal conditions for fleas and ticks across the length and breadth of the UK.

Aurelie Gayraud, a senior brand manager for the pet-care brand Bob Martin, which specialises in eradicating fleas, ticks and worms from our pets and homes, said: “Those who have encountered them will be all too familiar with just how annoying tick bites and flea infestations can be for you and your pet, but they can sometimes be really dangerous, with tick bites potentially resulting in Lyme Disease, which can prove fatal for us and our pets in rare circumstances.

“With the hot humid weather the country has had recently, we’ve seen a large increase in the prevalence of the parasites in our outdoor spaces throughout the summer. But if you’re careful and follow some simple steps, you can certainly mitigate the risks of coming into contact with the little critters.”

Top five tips to keep safe out and about in summer

1. Know what to look out for

Fleas

Fleas can jump up to a foot in the air, making our pets easy targets for them to come into contact with. As one of the most common parasites in the UK found on our pets, they can easily come into our homes, infesting our bedding, carpets and furniture.

Spring and summer are the prime times for flea outbreaks as they thrive in warm, humid temperatures. The key to stopping a flea infestation is by stopping its life cycle, through the eradication of both eggs and adult fleas alike. To do this, you’ll have to buy home treatments to solve indoor problems as well as buying flea treatments for your pets.

Ticks

Ticks are drawn to warm bodies, hiding in long grass, foliage and bushes, before they latch themselves onto us or our pets.

As they latch, they inject an anaesthetic, so often we won’t even notice that we’ve been bitten immediately.

But once latched, they can feed for up to 3 days, so you’ll most certainly notice it on you.

They’ll latch onto you or your pets so look out for small, round grey/brown critters. Ticks vary in size, depending on life stage and how recently they’ve fed: starting off as small as a pinhead, growing rapidly as they fill with blood.

2. Be aware of the dangers

Infestations can quickly spiral out of control. With one female flea able to lay 50 eggs per-day, you can see how quickly an infestation can take hold from just a single bug!

As well as being an itchy pain, pets can develop allergies to fleas, called flea allergy dermatitis which can cause hair loss and sores – it can be really unpleasant for your pet if it’s not treated

Fleas are also responsible for transmitting tapeworms to dogs, cats and even us! They can spread some nasty diseases too

Ticks on the other hand, can cause serious diseases in the UK. When disturbed, infected ticks can transmit Lyme disease, which if left untreated can spread around the body for months after infection, causing facial palsy, arthritis and even damaging the nervous system. They can also transmit other illnesses, such as babesiosis and tick fever

3. Keep an eye out for fleas and ticks on your pets

Fleas are hard to spot, but the symptoms can be all too familiar. Cases of a severe flea infestation can include sore areas and rashes on your pet with mild cases resulting in incessant scratching – if you’re worried about a severe case on your pet, do consult your vet

An eighth of an inch long, they’re reddish-brown and really thin, so can be hard to see. You can buy a flea comb to brush your pet with, which will catch and enable you to easily identify them

Ticks can be easier to spot. They attach to their host for a meal and can latch on for days, so you may find an attached tick with its head burrowed under you or your pet's skin.

4. Take steps to prevent or treat them

If you don’t have an issue, but want to prevent flea and tick problems, you can use flea shampoos, spot ons, cat collars (for your pet) or home sprays, which can keep critters at bay throughout the year

If you have a problem with fleas and ticks, you should provide flea tablets, treat your home and then apply spot-on flea and tick products to your pets which will kill the critters and prevent them coming back, such as Bob Martin’s Clear range.

In the meantime, wash your pets’ bedding over 40⁰c, vacuum wherever you can, paying attention to warm, dark, protected areas - a flea's idea of a perfect home!

Spray the soft furnishings with a suitable flea spray.

5. Be wary of your surroundings

You can wear light-coloured clothing with long sleeves and avoid wearing shorts in long grassy areas, tucking your trouser legs into your socks

The Government’s Tick awareness site will give some further steps on avoiding known infested areas

Regularly check yourself, your children and your pets on a daily basis after a walk for ticks, being careful to remove any you spot.

You can use tweezers to remove ticks, but make sure you always twist, rather than pull the tick out. Once removed, check the tick is whole, then soak it in alcohol to kill it or squash it in tissue and dispose of it, be careful as engorged ticks will contain potentially infected blood.

For more information on Bob Martin as well as tips and advice on managing fleas, ticks and worms, please visit www.bobmartin.co.uk

Related:Ross-shire woman takes skydive plunge for Lyme disease awareness-raiser

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