The Ticks are Coming……The Ticks are Coming………Yikes!!!!

Actually…the ticks are here. As soon as the snow melts, the ground softens and the temperature warms up to “cool”, ticks make their appearance. I had been waiting patiently (although not missing them) for the first patient to arrive at our hospital affected with ticks but actually found the first one of the season on Red, my Irish Setter. Always count on him to keep me busy.

Over the past week we have fielded more and more calls from cat and dog owners alike inquiring about the best way to remove a tick or how to prevent them. As far as removal, forget the lit match, the nail polish and all the other home remedies. They tend just to result in burned dogs and irritated cats. The proper way to remove a tick is to grasp it firmly, pull slowly but steadily away from the skin while giving a slight twist. Patience, slow and steady is the action that should be used in removing a tick from your pet. A quick, jerking motion will result in breaking off the mouth parts of the tick leaving them imbedded in the pet. Although this will not cause a serious problem, at times, a red welt may appear for a week or longer if mouth parts are left in the skin.

Now comes the hard part; What to do about prevention? There are multiple products on the market, both over the counter as well as from your vet. A couple of the most commonly used are Frontline (cats and dogs) and Advantix (dogs only). In addition there has been a lot of advertising for a new collar called Serestro for dogs. Although it is beyond the scope of this post to discuss all of the pros and cons of each product a few basic points should be made:

-Frontline absorbs quickly, is a safe “agricultural” chemical (fipronil) and kills ticks only after they begin to feed
-Advantix absorbs more slowly into the pet’s skin (on some breeds several days) but repels ticks in addition to killing those that feed
-Serestro Tick collars also repels and kills ticks.

Both Serestro and Advantix, however, use an insecticide that while safe for people and pets is:
“To members of the genus Apis, the honey bees, imidacloprid is one of the most toxic chemicals ever created as an insecticide”
according to the Federal Registry.

It is credited in some areas of agricultural use as contributing to the phenomenon of honey bee “Colony Collapse Disorder” or CCD which results in honey bees abandoning their habitats at an extremely high rate. The collapse of honey bee colonies can seriously affect pollination of crops, flowers and may result in a significant agricultural impact. Although Advantix is slowly absorbed most of the chemicals are confined to the pet. With the Serestro collar there is concern that if a pet loses the collar or it is inappropriately disposed of, or if pets wearing them live in an active agricultural area, there could be a negative impact.

So prevention is not a “one size fits all” solution. The best approach is vigilant inspection of your pet in addition to a preventative of your choice. As off putting as ticks are when on your pet, the diseases they can carry (Lyme Disease, Anaplasmosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever) are even more serious. Whatever you choose do not take the onset of this year’s tick season lightly.