Itchy and Scratchy

Tips on how to safeguard our furry friends from ticks and fleas

We all love to cuddle up to our furry family, but the soft and warm fur that we so love is also the perfect hiding place for pesky parasites!

Far more than just a nuisance these tiny fleas through to large ticks feed on our pets’ blood, causing skin problems and can spread fatal diseases. Vietnam is a veritable heaven for these parasites because of the warm and humid weather and the vast amount of suitable habitat. Fortunately, there is a lot we can do to help protect our pets.

FLEA 101

Most fleas are so small it’s rare to see them without a microscope, but we can often see other signs of their presence. Fleas will often leave droppings (dark brown) or eggs (white) deep in the fur, or you might notice your pet scratching or licking more than usual.

While animal fleas cannot live on humans they can jump on for a short time and cause some nasty irritations on our skin.

Prevention really is important as once you get a flea infestation in your home it is incredibly difficult to get rid of all the eggs that the fleas leave in the environment. These eggs especially persist in carpets, sofas, soft bedding and areas of high humidity.

TICK 101

There are two main types of tick prevalent in Vietnam: hard bodied and soft bodied. The soft-bodied tick is easier to spot on your pet as they often swell to the size of a raisin, however, the smaller hard-bodied tick is just as dangerous and is often passed over on a quick tick check.

When these ticks attach to your pet they cause irritation, so your pet may start scratching in that general area. The best way to check is to thoroughly look through your pet’s coat on a daily basis, paying special attention to between the toes and around the eyes and ears.

If you find a tick it is important to remove it as soon as possible. Forget nail polish, alcohol and salt, these techniques can actually make the situation worse. Just follow this simple method: Using fingernails or tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull straight up, don’t twist.


Luckily for our pets (and us) there are now a number of tools available to help prevent these parasites from feasting, some are more effective than others, so here is a brief overview of the offerings:

  • Shampoos and Powders

These are the least effective options as they have no residual activity, only target parasites currently attached, have little effect on ticks and in some cases the ingredients can be toxic to our pets too.

  • Collars

High-quality collars impregnated with chemicals are very effective against ticks but less so against fleas. Make sure you check the brand and the duration of activity as this can vary significantly.

  • Spot-Ons

There is a wide range of spot-ons available, including some generics. Make sure you compare like-for-like and ask your veterinarian for advice as not all brands use the same ingredients,

and some can be fatal if used on the wrong breed or species. These spot-ons tend to be very effective against fleas but less so for ticks but they can be used in combination with the collars.

  • Tablets

Recently there are new products coming to Vietnam like NexGard—this is a convenient monthly tablet that is effective against both ticks and fleas.

  • Home Remedies

Some people use tea tree oil (careful, it’s toxic!), brewers yeast or cider vinegar to prevent fleas and ticks. There is no scientific evidence to support these claims so it is best to use them in conjunction with a tried and tested preventative.

Prevention is always easier than treatment. Keep using preventatives when you don’t find any parasites—it means it’s working. No treatment is 100 percent effective and there is no substitute to keeping a close eye on your pet and regularly checking their fur— that’s what all those cuddles are for!

BIO: Dr. Anna is one of the veterinary surgeons at Animal Doctors International. Anna’s special interest is neurology in which she gained experience in referral hospitals in Germany and Switzerland. Anna has moved to Vietnam following a successful stint as senior veterinarian for an animal charity in Thailand.

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