ONCE upon a time — that is, when I was a girl — if you wanted to rid your dogs of ticks, fleas and lice, you tossed them in the plunge tank after you’d dipped the cattle.

Although I don’t think the mixture was arsenic-based at the time (I’m not that old), the acaricide (pesticide that kills ticks and mites) and water concoction was gooey and foul-smelling. Like the cattle, the dogs didn’t willingly jump in and swim across. A (not always gentle) nudge was required.

These days, veterinarians can diagnose biliary (tick-bite fever) within minutes and, if you have the dog seen to soon enough, modern treatment is largely effective. But, back in the day, when a dog contracted biliary, death was almost certain. The trick was to keep dogs tick-free. A weekly dip with the cattle, however stinky and scary, was a small price to pay to keep biliary and bereavement at bay.

Pest control has advanced significantly since regular dipping, spraying, powdering or washing was the order of the day. And, as most people who have tried to wash a cat will attest, thank heavens for that.

Parasitologists have come up with several advanced (and often pricey) topical and oral medications for dogs and cats, which kill ticks and fleas, prevent them from breeding and/or stop re-infestation. South Africans are readily purchasing these remedies, driven, says a Euromonitor report entitled Pet Care in SA, by "the rising trend of pet humanisation". (Oops. Sorry about that, President-People-Should-Not-Love-Their-Dogs-Like-They-Love-People-Zuma.)

Modern parasiticides are easy to administer, long lasting and come in various applications. If you find getting a pill down your pet’s throat problematic — indeed, forcing a cat to swallow a tablet is almost as dangerous as bathing it — you can use a dab-on or spray like Frontline.

The collar is flexible, robust and continues to work even if your dog or cat gets wet. And, says Bayer, Seresto is the first product also available for cats that repels ticks, which means the creatures won’t attach to the cat, thereby minimising the risk of transmitting disease.

And if, like my pony-sized Great Dane cross Boerboel Alfie, he or she loathes Frontline and disappears for the day before you’ve removed the applicator from the packaging, you can treat them with chewable tablets like Comfortis (for fleas) or Bravecto (fleas and ticks).

According to the manager of a vet shop, the fipronil and (S)-methoprene combo in Frontline creates a chilling sensation as it moves into the oil glands in the animal’s skin, where it is stored and thereafter self-distributed onto the surface of the skin and into the hair to kill pests. Some pets, she said, hate the chill and hence, Frontline. Perhaps. But I think it’s probably the product’s powerful alcoholic odour that puts them off.

One of the advantages of the recently launched Bayer Seresto tick and flea collar is that it is almost odourless. The technology centres on a patented polymer matrix composition, which controls and adjusts the migration of active ingredients from the collar to the lipid layer of the pet’s skin. Seresto releases a combination of just enough imidacloprid (a potent insecticide) and flumethrin (an effective acaricide) to maintain the necessary levels of active ingredient to kill ticks and fleas for up to eight months, which, according to my calculations, makes it one of the most cost-effective reliable anti-tick and flea products available.

The collar is flexible, robust and continues to work even if your dog or cat gets wet. And, says Bayer, Seresto is the first product also available for cats that repels ticks, which means the creatures won’t attach to the cat, thereby minimising the risk of transmitting disease.

I regularly walk my dogs on a tick-infested mountainside and haven’t seen a tick (or flea) on them since discovering Seresto about three months ago. That doesn’t mean I haven’t seen ticks. As the days get warmer, they breed more profusely and I regularly pluck the little suckers from my jeans, which makes me wonder when parasitologists will create a convenient way for people to also effectively repel the parasites?

Sometimes opportunity knocks; this time, it ticks.

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Tue Dec 06 04:52:56 SAST 2016