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Protecting dogs from ticks infected with multiple diseases

Protecting dogs from the dangers of ticks is one of the most difficult challenges we face in modern veterinary medicine. While preventing fleas is a relatively straightforward process for both veterinarians and pet owners, ticks pose a series of threats all their own.

Unlike fleas, which present primarily as one predictable species (the cat flea), ticks come in a variety of species, each threatening pets with a unique set of behaviors, feeding habits and seasonality. And, as opposed to fleas who are predictably sensitive to the isoxazoline class of drugs, ticks vary in their susceptibility to active ingredients. For instance, the Lone Star tick is notoriously much harder to kill than many other tick species1.

Additional tick traits that make them difficult to control:

  • Unlike fleas, ticks spend the majority of their lives off of the host in the environment
  • Reproduction happens primarily on wildlife (and not on pets), so their reproduction is extremely difficult to control
  • They are resistant to adverse environments and conditions
  • They are able to adapt to many habitats and expand into new territories
  • Ticks can parasitize a wide variety of hosts
  • They have complex life cycles

Even more challenging is the number of diseases ticks can simultaneously carry. Because ticks have multiple life stages that each requires a blood meal from a different host, by the time a tick has reached adulthood, it has already had two blood meals from two different hosts that each could have been carrying a disease like Anaplasmosis, Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis or Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

In other words, as a tick matures through its life cycle, it has the ability to accumulate a variety of disease agents that it can then infect a pet with as it feeds. For that reason, it’s important to think beyond just one tick-borne disease and its transmission time to consider the multiple diseases a tick may pass on.

The double threat of Ixodes scapularis

Ixodes scapularis serves as a good example of a tick infected with multiple disease agents, as it can commonly be infected with both Anaplasma and Lyme disease. A larva Ixodes scapularis tick can become infected with Lyme bacteria after feeding on a squirrel (reservoir host). Once it molts to a nymph, it can then become infected with Anaplasma bacteria when it feeds on a rabbit (reservoir host). By the time it completes its last molt into an adult, it will be carrying both pathogens that can be spread to a pet.

It’s common practice to think of tick disease transmission times individually when evaluating a pet’s risk for infection and relevant treatment options. However, the threat of co-infection makes it critical that we consider all possible diseases simultaneously for treatment. For example, 24 hours is the minimum amount of time it takes a tick to pass Lyme disease on to a dog2. However, if that tick is also infected with Anaplasmosis, the window of concern jumps to 6 hours3. After all, Anaplasmosis is a much faster transmitting disease.

Protecting pets from co-infected ticks

With this information, you’ll see it’s necessary to protect pets from ticks that may be carrying multiple disease agents. But how should you do that? After all, many products show efficacy against just one specific disease carried by ticks, but not many have data against two diseases from the same tick in one study.

Enter Seresto®.

In a recent study, Seresto showed 100% efficacy against ticks infected with both Lyme AND Anaplasma4. The study involved Ixodes scapularis naturally infected in the wild with pathogens and their impact on three groups of ten dogs. Group A contained dogs treated with Seresto that had been wearing the collar for one month. Group B contained dogs treated with Seresto that had been wearing the collar for seven months. Group C was the non-treated control group.

Each dog was infested with 80 disease-carrying ticks. After 48 hours, the ticks on each dog were counted and then allowed to remain on the dogs for three more days to increase the likelihood of blood feeding and disease transmission. Blood from the dogs was collected on days 17, 31, 45, 65 and 86 to look for Lyme and Anaplasma antibodies. Skin biopsies were also performed on tick attachment sites to look for evidence of disease transmission.

In both groups treated with Seresto (A and B), no ticks attached, so no skin biopsies were needed or performed highlighting the collar's strong repellency and anti-feeding properties. And none of these dogs were infected with either Lyme disease or Anaplasma. With no attachment, there was no opportunity for these ticks to feed and spread disease. In the untreated control group (group C), however, every single dog was infected with BOTH Lyme disease and Anaplasma and skin biopsies were performed.

The key takeaway from the study was that Seresto was proven to be 100% effective in protecting dogs from ticks infected with Lyme disease and Anaplasma both early and late into its 8-month treatment period.

Seeing the whole picture

Thanks to the study, we now understand the diminished risk that co-infected ticks pose to properly treated pets. Yes, ticks are a serious threat and treatment can be difficult for both veterinarians and pet owners. And the likelihood of co-infection makes this threat even more palpable. However, with the right prevention, you can feel confident that pets are protected from ticks that pose this danger. Because, without the ability to attach and feed, ticks can’t infect pets with their multitude of diseases.

Not only did Seresto show 100% efficacy, as a collar that needs to be applied just once every 8 months, it’s incredibly easy to administer. Without the hassle of sticky residues or the need to remember dosing on a monthly basis, a variety of pet owners will likely find that it’s the best solution to fit their lifestyles, too.

Faced with the extremely difficult challenge of protecting pets from the dangers of ticks, make sure you feel confident in your patients’ prevention. Carrying Seresto, in addition to orals and topicals, gives you another effective tool in the fight against ticks and allows you to meet more pet owner needs.

1Wenger MJ, Kollasch TM, Locklear C, et al. Early onset of pre-lethal effects of lotilaner (Credelio®) on Amblyomma americanum ticks on experimentally infested dogs. Parasite Vector. 2021;14:322.
2Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) Guidelines: Lyme Disease. Available from Accessed January 5, 2021.
3Fourie JJ, Evans A, Labuschagne M, et al. Transmission of Anaplasma phagocytophilum (Foggie, 1949) by Ixodes ricinus (Linnaeus, 1758) ticks feeding on dogs and artificial membranes. Parasite Vector. 2019;12:136.
4Krämer F, Hüsken R, Krüdewagen EM, et al. Prevention of transmission of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato and Anaplasma phagocytophilum by Ixodes spp. ticks to dogs treated with the Seresto® collar (imidacloprid 10% + flumethrin 4.5%). Parasitol Res. 2020;119:299.

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