Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 2, Issue 7, Tuesday August 10, 2004






Readerís chit
Fleas stay FUR away

Have you ever seen a cat scratch itself? It's a rare sight. Seems they have impeccable grooming standards for which fleas stay far away. All that licking is put to good use to keep themselves reasonably clean. Dogs on the other hand also lick themselves but the reasons and the regions are best left alone. They prefer letting things be and scratching themselves silly when the skin irritates. It means more work for the owner.

So how do you know if your dog has fleas? Fleas are sneaky little creatures and you will not be able to spot it showing you the tongue from inside the fur. They can hide very well in the forest of hairs especially if the dog is long-coated. Also fleas can jump record distances. The human equivalent is leaping over a two storey building. This way fleas can easily move from dog to dog just like we change houses.

If you see the dog scratching a lot it could mean fleas. It could also mean dry skin, allergy or parasitic mites. If the dog is running around in circles trying to bite round its tail or back then fleas are a possibility.

The bites could lead to tapeworm infestation. Let the fleas remain long enough and the biting may get severe. By biting I mean the dog biting itself. In some cases the dog will scratch enough to remove the fur and some skin as well leaving an ugly rash. Look for small red raised bumps on the base of the tail or the outside of the hind legs.

Fleas leave annoying little droppings on the dog. You can run a fine toothed comb through the fur and drop the collected debris into a small bowl of water. The droppings contain blood and will give a pink tint to the water.

If the clues tell that the dog has fleas start by simple grooming of the fur. Run a fine toothed comb daily along the fur to remove the fleas. There are shampoos and soap available in pet stores that promise to do the job but before you try any apply it on a small spot to see if the dog is allergic or not. For washing, sometimes regular human shampoo like Sunsilk does wonders. Of course using shampoo too often will lead to dry skin. Once a week or two will be enough. During hot weather it helps to rinse the dog occasionally just using tap water. Also treat the areas where the dog sleeps and any bedding that it might use.

The longer the fur the more you need to brush it. This way the fleas stay away and the fur shines. It makes sense why street dogs have such short hair. God works in mysterious way, eh? But even after meticulous grooming the dog continues scratching in particular areas then see a vet because it might be parasites.

By Ehsanur Raza Ronny

Of pets and pollutants

Their amiability, faithfulness and frolicsome attitude earned them a place in our heart as many out there enjoy the assemblage of these dear pets. Whether cats, dogs, birds, fish, turtles to even rodents, household pets indeed serve many purposes starting from good companion to the allegiant protector. But along with all the positivity, pets do have a negative side, as they are one of the major contributors of the indoor pollution. Pets like dogs, cats, rodents and birds have feather, dander and excrete proteins in their saliva, sebum, perianal glands, urine and feces as well as release other biologic organisms with respiration. These small molecular weight proteins that are found in animal secretions are in fact animal allergens that are carried on small particles and can be airborne for many hours. These pollutants are small enough to be inhaled and result in numerous physical discomforts.

The biological contaminants from pets mostly trigger allergic reactions such as allergic rhintis (hay fever), hypersensitivity pneumonitis and some types of asthma. Children who are constantly exposed to this kind of pollution must be given very special care since long-term exposure to these biological contaminants can lead to repeated ear infections, respiratory difficulties and behavioral problems. The general symptoms of health problems associated with biological pollutants include sneezing, watery eyes, coughing, shortness of breath, dizziness, lethargy, fever and digestive problems. Even though the pets may have their contribution in the indoor pollution but one who owns a pet just cannot estrange the creature. To solve the problem, experts say that the only proven method of reducing animal allergen concentration indoors is to remove the animal for six months or so in order to clean the allergen room the home. Professionals also explain that measures short of this have not proven to reduce either settled dust or airborne allergen levels appreciably. But this sure is a troublesome step for many since removing the animal for six months to clean the house is obviously a very hectic method for many who owns a pet. As second method, it is recommended to wash the pet regularly and create rooms where there is no pet access. The later method will assist to keep pets out of young children's reach.

Although pets are responsible for some indoor pollution, they are also the victims of this pollution as well. Studies have found out that pets also suffer from health effects due to indoor air quality. Sometimes health problems associated with indoor pollution show up in animals before they do in people and pets are in fact in more risk than human since they care not able to explain whether they are feeling well or not. Indoor pollutants like lead, carbon monoxide and chemical particulate from pesticides have their negative impact on animal health almost as much as they effect the human body. Dogs are more likely to get lead poisoning than other household pets. Birds also get exposed to lead especially when they are allowed to fly around the house where they begin pecking at walls painted with lead paint. Other animals that are also at risk of lead pollution are cats, rabbits and iguanas. Exposure to lead poisoning results in several health problems like upset stomach, vomiting, diarrhea, blood in feces, hysterical barking and inability to sleep.

Like people animals also suffer from allergies and asthma. Allergens can be resulted from substances such as pollen, mold spores and some certain foods to which the pet's immune system has an abnormal reaction. Dust mites and fleas can also create allergic reaction in pet. The most common signs of pets suffering from allergies are scratching, face rubbing, biting and chewing at the skin and excessive licking of the paws. Although exposure to allergies are difficult to prevent but there are ways though which allergies can be controlled. Flea infestation is required if pets are allergic to fleas. The treatment method of pets with allergic reactions is almost the same as the human ones like antihistamines and allergy shots. Special diets for pets like fish-based products, both prescriptive and non-prescriptive help to reduce symptoms in allergic pets. Pesticides that are used to kill insects also effect pets as well. As methods of prevention it is suggested to clean pet bedding regularly and vacuum the home habitually. Besides these, due to their smaller lung capacities, pets are also easily affected by carbon monoxide.

Some pet-friendly home decorations also improve the indoor air quality of a house. For example it is suggested to avoid textured wall coverings which act as fleecy materials that later release indoor pollutants and cats also have the habit of scratching these types of wall coverings. As a substitute of this it is suggested to have leather furniture since it can be easily be cleaned of dust and dirt. By applying these simple methods not only one can control the indoor pollution but also can keep the household pets safe from numerous harmful pollutants.

By Obaidur Rahman



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