It’s a Jungle Out There

What a perfect place South West London is for owning a dog. Could there be better dog walking locations than Richmond Park, Wimbledon Common or the riverside walks next to Father Thames?

It is actually easier to find good walking terrain around here than the coast where dogs are often banned from the beaches from May to October or in more rural locations where farmers take a very dim view of your euphoric pooch charging around fields intended for their cows or sheep.

To every pro there must be a con and what are the dangers that we need to protect against.

Sharing these green swathes with the deer, foxes and other wild fauna requires us to protect our dog against a myriad of parasites that can be responsible for animal and human health issues.

Ticks, that most unsightly of bugs, are carried by deer and other mammals. These critters can then become embedded into our dogs (or cats) to suck blood. Luckily mostly they are just unsightly and can cause local reactions, but they can transmit diseases to our pets as well. Lyme’s disease has been reported from Richmond Park and does seem to be on the increase. There are a plethora of other tick borne diseases found in other countries and the worry is that with increased pet travel to Europe and increasing climate warming in this country, they may become established here. Never just attempt to pull the tick off as you may leave the mouthparts behind which can cause a nasty inflamed sore lump. You can get special tick removers that twist and ‘unscrew’ the head out of the skin, which are much safer to use. Alternatively using a monthly spot-on treatment or one of the newer tick collars can kill or even repel the ticks from attaching. Traditionally we always said that the tick season was March to October but the strange weather conditions with mild Novembers can often extend the season.

Fleas are an ever-present parasite that we need to protect against. Both cats and dogs can suffer terribly from this most irritating of parasite. They only spend a fraction of their time on the pet. The rest of their life cycle is spent in a warm and quiet part of the house. They are a very efficient parasite and are only vulnerable to anti flea treatments in certain stages of their life cycle. It is much easier to prevent the pets from getting infected because once they get into the house it can take many months of pet and environment treatment before we can get control of the problem. Again using a monthly spot-on treatment for your pets will be the best protection you can provide to prevent this infestation.

Understandably this area is very attractive to pet ownership and so a lot of us enjoy it. This creates quite a high density of dogs and cats around. All dogs and cats are born with intestinal worms that will mature and produce eggs which are passed in the faeces. These are then infective to other dogs and cats. This natural life cycle is not pleasant but generally our pets do not show many symptoms of disease unless they are very heavily infested. Unfortunately if we humans pick up the eggs inadvertently, the worms can continue their life cycle. The worm larvae can get confused and end up in the wrong parts of the body commonly the lungs, liver or eyes. Blindness caused by roundworm larvae is the commonest issue for humans. Hand hygiene after gardening/playing in the park will obviously help but children are particularly at risk. Preventing this problem is very easy by worming our pets with an effective product regularly.

Our lovely green spaces are not only attractive to us but also those most popular garden visitors - slugs and snails. Unfortunately our pets will often try to help by eating them. More usually they will eat grass which inadvertently will contain these squelchy morsels. Snails and slugs can carry a lungworm that affect our dogs. This is a disease that used to be prevalent on the warm, wet areas of the UK but have recently moved due to changes in the UK’s climate. This lungworm can cause severe respiratory disease and also blood clotting defects that can be catastrophic. This potentially very nasty problem can again be prevented with a monthly spot-on treatment. Again another disease much more easily prevented than treated.

This area with its lovely green spaces is a perfect place for our dogs to enjoy their walks and our cats to prowl and hunt in. All we have to do is prevent the parasites that can cause problems to our families, pets and humans.


Simon Kent BVSc CertVC MRCVS, Vets on White Hart Lane, Barnes