Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Friday, February 19, 2010

Leech attacks Lena, the Mini Schnauzer

At lunchtime today I went to the local cafe and got out the dog chain to attach Lena to a handy "tie point", while I was going to have lunch.
Unbeknowns to me, "lunch" had started many hours before.

A very large Leech was attached to Lena's neck, just near where her "choker chain" fits.
Clearly the Leech had been attached for many hours, and I suspect Lena had picked it up overnight, at Bowral (for I had stayed at Bernie and Dorothy's place, and Lena had been with me). It has been raining a lot in Bowral, recently, too.

I figure that Lena had picked up this Leech while she was out for a toilet stop, some time, probably before bedtime last night. Then it had found its way up to her neck and attached itself.

When I came home at 9:30AM this morning, Lena was a little sedate - a bit tired? So while I checked my emails, she went to her bed. I got up to leave for my regular volunteer shift at the CTC@Robertson, at 10:00 AM, and Lena did not stir. I thought that a little unusual, but I did not worry about her - I just left her at home.

I returned after 1:00 PM, and collected Lena, so I could go to lunch at Cafe Pirouette. I regularly go there, and if the weather is nice, I eat outside and Lena sits on the grass nearby. It is an innocent little ritual.

So, today I went to fit Lena's "Choker Chain" and discovered the swollen Leech. I felt something wet and sticky - instead of soft dry fur.
Close-up shot of Leech on Lena's neck
Yellow strip on lower sides.
Red stripe higher on sides.
The narrower "head end" is buried in Lena's fur.
I sprinkled salt on the Leech, and that made it retract its mouth parts.
I spoke with the local pharmacist, who said he thought that the salt trick is not good practice, as it can mean that the Leech can regurgitate its stomach contents, causing contamination of the wound. Against that, I find that trying to remove the Leech by physical methods (pulling or trying to brush them off), are either unsuccessful, or result in the wound bleeding freely, for several hours.

At least this technique avoids that result, for the Leech first attaches itself, it injects an anti-coagulant. If salt is applied, the Leech reacts badly and tries to leave. Before it does that, it seals the wound with a coagulant, as it does after having completed its complete feeding cycle. That's why if the Leech has completed its meal and drops off, one does not bleed freely. Similarly, if salt is applied.
Here is the wound left behind on Lena's neck.
Ignore the salt. That is not a problem.
And so it is with Lena. She has a mark on her neck, but just a few drops of blood oozing, Not a freely bleeding wound. She is sound asleep as I write this story. Lets hope she has no nasty after effects. Two people I know who have dogs which have been bitten by Leeches advise that in general it does not seem to cause the dogs much discomfort. I hope not, for by contrast, I know I am highly allergic to a Leech bite. I may itch for as much as a week.

For more photos of Leeches, follow this link to an earlier Blog Post, and for the "Life History" of Leeches click this link to the Australian Museum "Fact Sheet" on Leeches.

DJW Update: Two days out from this incident, there have been no apparent "side effects" of either the Leech bite, or the salting technique in removing the Leech from Lena's neck.


mick said...

Leeches - Yuck!! Hope Lena has no ill effects.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Mick
She was fine overnight - no sign of any ill effects.
I shall keep an eye on her during the day, as I get the reaction 24 hours after they drop off.

Flabmeister said...


I'm pleased to hear she is OK. Heer in Carwoola we don't have 'normal' leeches but do have very large (6 -10cms) ones which live in dams and billabongs. I try to ensure that our small dog doesn't meet one.


Denis Wilson said...

Hi Martin
Your place sounds too dry for "normal leeches".
But I would not swim in your Yabby ponds, either.
Lena is fine, thanks.