Although the summer months are upon us and ticks have become more of a threat, tick preventives must be used every time of year
Tick prevention adherence is an easy way to combat potential tick-borne diseases from bites, as vaccinations are not available for most of these infections.1 Ticks are active throughout the year,and therefore tick control should be practiced consistently to protect the health of the pet and prevent untreated companion animals from bringing ticks into the home and thus infesting their owners or family.2 Some popular options of tick preventives are topical, oral, and tick collars.
In a dvm360® interview, Brian Herrin, DVM, PhD, DACVM (Parasitology), discussed what he tells his clients about the importance of tick prevention. “We talk about using tick prevention for all our pets, because these are easily preventable diseases,” Herrin said.
Sometimes a tick bite only results in a small amount of blood loss and a wound from the bite area. However, ticks can also carry and transmit diseases and pathogens onto the pet they bite. The most common transmitted diseases are Lyme disease and, in cats, Cytauxzoonosis.3
Tick bites can also cause anemia and skin infections from the bite area.3 “Transmission of a given pathogen is often restricted to a particular tick genus or species. For example, only members of the genus Ixodes are known to be competent vectors of spirochetes that cause Lyme disease,”according to the Companion Animal Parasite Council.2
In a previous dvm360® interview, Beckie Mossor, RVT, shared common challenges veterinary professionals face when discussing parasite preventives with clients. “A lot of our clients have a misunderstanding about how frequently they need to use preventives,or the fact that it is something they need to use all 12 months of the year,” Mossor said.
Mossor highlighted that, oftentimes, having a simple discussion with clients can help remind them to use tick control year-round. In an episode of the dvm360® program, Vet Perspective, Katina Carter, DVM, noted that ticks are adapting to colder weather. “Now we can see them year-round, as they don’t mind the damp in the South and they don’t mind the North, either,” Carter said.
Mossor also shared her tips for discussing tick preventives with clients. “Be honest and straight forward. Remember you are advocating each time you are educating. Whittle down the information you are giving [the client]. Stop using the word, ‘recommend,’ [and] start using [words] like ‘prescribe’ or ‘best practices,’” she said.
Herrin noted that tick preventives “could also be an investment in [a] pet’s health, where later down the line, [the owner is] skipping out on $1000 to $2000 vet bill just by preventing that disease process.” Clients can be reminded that the initial financial cost of using tick control year-round tends to outweigh the consequences of opting out.
Tick prevention products aim to lower the chances of a pet being bitten. However, a tick may still jump onto the animal’s body. Owners should be advised that if a tick is seen, it is best to remove it as quickly as possible, before it can attach to the pet’s skin, according to Herrin.
“The best way to remove them is to try to grab the tick as close to the skin as you can—[don’t] try to squeeze the back end—[then] pull directly out. There’s no need to try to twist [the tick off], [and] definitely [don’t] try to burn them off,” Herrin said. “If [pet owners] are concerned, [I recommend saving] them in a piece of clear tape. That way you would have that tick in case your pet started feeling ill in the next couple of weeks, and you could take that to your veterinarian [for further inspection].
”The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals recommends regularly checking your pet for ticks when they go outside, especially in high-grass or wooded areas. The organization suggests to run your hands carefully over your pet every time they come inside and to thoroughly check inside and around the ears, head, and feet.3