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5 ways to prevent your dog from getting tick fever this monsoon

Pets are highly susceptible to ticks this season. Here are simple but effective ways to prevent the disease

If your pet was out in the rain, their wet coat coupled with their warmer bodies makes them humid surfaces, which attracts ticks.(Pexels)

By Riddhi Doshi

LAST PUBLISHED 20.07.2023  |  01:00 PM IST

Last year, just at the end of the monsoon, my one-year-old Dogo Argentino got tick fever. He refused dinner one evening. He threw up a little bit. The next morning, he started limping. It was heartbreaking to see my energetic, playful dog lie in a corner, listless, refusing to eat, and struggling to walk.

His recovery process was just as trying. Injections given as a cure to the disease are extremely painful. Seeing him scared and in agony made me miserable. Thankfully, though, Khal recovered within a week. He was going for walks and playing a little even four days into his treatment.

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Not all dogs are that lucky, though. A few I know have had to take several bottles of saline, to regain the lost energy and build back their severely compromised immune system, making recovery that much harder and longer. A few dogs have even died because of tick fever.

Also Read: When to take your pet to the vet

Monsoon is the time when dogs are the most susceptible to ticks. If your pet was out in the rain, their wet coat coupled with their warmer bodies makes them humid surfaces, which attracts ticks.

Ticks are often found on the grass, which also becomes lush during this season. Close contact with tick-infested dog is another common way of attracting ticks. These bloodsucking parasites transmit infectious organisms, specifically Babesia protozoan parasites, which cause tick fever.

“One female tick can lay 20,000 eggs," says veterinarian Mandar Gavkar. These infest not just your dog’s body, but also his bed, toys, and home. “That’s the reason why some dogs take a very long time to recover, some get tick fever frequently and some just don’t respond to medicines because of the high penetration of the infestation," adds Gavkar.

“The only option is to prevent tick fever at all cost," says veterinarian Shashank Sinha, also CEO of Drools, a dog food brand. He recommends doing as many things as possible to avoid ticks, though, for some it’s important to consult a vet.

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1. Clean and examine your dog
The best option would be to not take your dog to the garden or anywhere where there are a lot of plants or grass. That, however, would be very difficult for those with large-sized pets and active dogs such as mine, as they need lots of exercise and long walks.

Also Read: A handy guide to alternative medicine for your pets

So, as soon as the dog returns from his walk, clean him with lukewarm water. If possible, add two to three drops of disinfectant to the water as well. Ensure that your dog is completely dry, even if it takes you three to four towels. A wet coat is a breeding ground for ticks and other fungal infections.

At home, we sometimes even use a hair dryer to get the job done. We also carry towels on our walks. If we have taken Khal for a trek, as soon as it ends or as soon as it stops raining, we try and dry him as much as possible before he gets into the car. Examine your dog thoroughly. If you find a tick, drown it in a bowl of water added with a disinfectant, so it doesn’t breed in your house.

Pay extra attention to your dog’s paws. Sometimes, when a dog scratches it, the mud, dirt and tick stuck on the paw is carried to other parts of his body. “In the monsoons, make it a habit to add Betadine (an antiseptic also used by humans) in lukewarm water, and dip your dog’s paws in it for a minute or so before cleaning them with a dry cloth," says Gavkar.

Clean your dog's paws in Betadine solution. (Unsplash)

2. Check your dog’s nutrition
The right nutrition is essential to build a dog’s immunity. Ensure that he has a healthy diet and the right mix of protein, fat, and fibre, in it.

“It’s very important to build your dog’s immunity," says Sinha. “If your dog isn’t eating, don’t take it lightly. Figure out the reason, change the food, if need be, but ensure that he eats the right food and in the right amount," he adds. One can also seek help from a dog nutritionist.

After trial and error, we realised that raw food – meat, and fish with a mix of boiled vegetables, rice, a pinch of turmeric and cinnamon in specific quantities – is the best mix for our dog. After we stopped feeding him kibble and chicken, which he is allergic to, and put him on a raw diet, he hasn’t fallen ill once.

3. Medicines, spray and collars

There are a few medicines available that avoid tick infestation. The one which we give Khal is Bravacto. He gets one every three months. We actually set reminders on our smart devices so we don’t miss the day.

Khal got tick fever last year as his weight increased in the three-month duration in between medicines, decreasing the effect of lower dose medicine given to him according to his earlier weight.

It’s important to consult your vet before giving your dog any medicine. You need to consult the doctor to determine what dosage your dog must be given depending on weight, allergies and health condition. Plus, some of these can cause side effects in some dogs.

Also read: How to figure out the best diet for your pet

There are also tick-repellent drops, collars, sprays and medicated shampoos available in the pet market. “I suggest trying multiple things to keep ticks at bay and not rely on just one preventive measure," says Sinha. “These bacteria are known to evolve and become immune to available drugs. In that case, other methods could be more effective," he adds. It would also be advisable to spray a tick disinfectant on your dog before taking him outdoors.

4. Pest control
To ensure that your house is not infested with fleas, opt for a pest control package or service that includes disinfectants for ticks, suggests Gavkar.

5. Disinfect their accessories and surfaces
“Tick fever is a pest problem, which can be managed," says Sinha. Disinfect all your dog’s belongings frequently, including his car cover and your car or bike seats. Keep your home clean and disinfect the floor, especially the spots he sleeps in. Don’t let your house become a breeding ground for ticks.

Riddhi Doshi is a Mumbai-based independent journalist, Kathak student, and first-time pet parent