The arrival of warmer Spring-like weather this week has most of us very excited! But along with days of biking, barbecuing and lounging in the sunshine, it is important to remember that the arrival of warmer weather also brings the arrival of tick season.
Ticks are extremely prevalent in this area and carry a multitude of diseases that can not only affect you but your pets as well. These diseases include but are not limited to Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis and Anaplasmosis. Lyme disease and Anaplasmosis are carried primarily by the deer tick while Ehrlichiosis is transmitted through the bite of an infected dog tick. These diseases cause a range of symptoms from lethargy, fever, joint pain and swelling to more serious conditions such as difficulty clotting and kidney failure.
Due to the potentially devastating nature of these tick-borne illnesses it is extremely important to take every measure possible to protect your dogs and cats from ticks. The ideal time to start these preventative measures is right now. Many people are unaware that ticks do not die during the cold winter months. These little creatures simply bury themselves in the leaf litter and come out in search of a blood meal as soon as the temperature reaches 32 degrees. Rising temperatures as well as movement, vibrations and carbon dioxide (generated from the breathing of a nearby animal) are all factors that cause ticks to actively begin looking for a host.
Due to the fact that Vermont has the second highest incidence of Lyme disease in the country River Road Veterinary Clinic recommends that almost all dogs be vaccinated for Lyme disease. The vaccine is very effective at preventing Lyme disease and is an important factor in protecting your dog.
In addition to the vaccine all dogs and cats who have access to the outdoors should be treated with a flea/tick preventative medication since the vaccine only protects your animal from Lyme disease and not any other tick-borne diseases.
River Road Veterinary Clinic carries many different options for tick prevention and your animal. Even though cats do not contract Lyme disease they can develop other tick-borne illnesses. In addition, cats often bring ticks in from the outdoors, dropping them in the house and leaving them to potentially bite other members of your household. Frontline Plus is a once monthly topical medication that is applied between the shoulder blades. When a tick bites your cat they ingest the medication and will die before they are able to transmit disease. It is important to note that although Frontline Plus kills all types of ticks seen in this area it is NOT a repellant, and requires that the tick bite and feed from your pet before being affected by the medication. Cats are very sensitive to other tick medications and River Road Veterinary Clinic does not carry any medications approved to repel ticks in cats.
Frontline Plus is also available for dogs and has been used with success for many, many years. Lately, however, the increasing tick load in the area has caused many of our patients to be overrun with ticks despite the use of Frontline Plus. For this reason we now carry several other options to successfully repel ticks from your dog. It is important to know that any of the following medications should be used with extreme caution in households containing cats. Topical medications should be completely dry on your dog before interaction with your cat is allowed. If you have any questions about the interaction of your dog and cat with regard to flea/tick medications please contact your veterinarian.
Activyl Tickplus works similarly to Frontline Plus in that it is a topical once monthly treatment. Unlike Frontline Plus, however, it is a tick repellant. This means that a tick simply has to jump onto your dog to be affected by the medication and die. Activyl TIckplus is also a very effective flea medication and has been shown to be more effective than Frontline Plus in recent studies.
Scalibor collars are another option for tick prevention in your dog. These collars are good for 6 months and release very small amounts of a tick repellant into the lipid layer of the skin. Similar to Activyl Tickplus, the Scalibor collar is a tick repellant and works very, very well. Unlike Activyl Tickplus, the Scalibor collar does not do a great job at preventing flea problems, so using a topical flea medication in conjunction with the collar is advised. Scalibor collars should not be used on dogs who spend a significant amount of time snuggling with or being groomed by cats.
There are a multitude of tick medications available and the list continues to grow by the day. There are many over-the-counter products for sale that are ineffective and others that are downright dangerous. If you choose to purchase your flea/tick prevention from a source other than your local veterinarian please remember to consult with them prior to your purchase to avoid potentially devastating consequences (especially for cats). River Road Veterinary Clinic can be reached at (802)649-3877 and would be happy to help you navigate the confusing world of tick prevention for your four-legged friends.