Ask the Vet: Risk from ticks on riseEverybody seems to be more concerned about ticks and their pets than ever before.
By: Dr. Amanda Bruce, Superior Telegram
Q: Everybody seems to be more concerned about ticks and their pets than ever before. What’s happening?
The threat of ticks and tick disease is extremely high this year. We know this from experience. Also, the nonprofit Companion Animal Parasite Council partners with Clemson University statisticians to create a tick forecast, and that is what they are telling us. The Clemson team developed the model for severe weather forecasting. With ticks, they evaluate temperature, dew point, humidity, precipitation, elevation, forest cover, deer strikes by cars and human Lyme Disease cases to make their forecast.
Our region is considered at high risk for Lyme disease, which is spread by ticks; and throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin, we are seeing increases in other tick-borne diseases such as anaplasmosis, babesiosis and ehrlichiosis.
Q: I’ve heard concerns that Frontline, one of the most common tick preventatives for dogs and cats, no longer works as well as it used to. Is that true?
Frontline works by storing the active ingredient, fipronil, in the oil glands along your pet’s body. It is then distributed along the hair and skin coat where fleas and ticks contact it. In the case of ticks, it can take 24 to 48 hours to kill. Frontline does not claim to repel ticks. Due to the length of time it can take to kill ticks, it is possible for people to see ticks crawling on and even attached to their pets. I believe people equate seeing ticks on their pets with product failure. But there is no documented evidence that fleas or ticks have developed a resistance to fipronil.
Keeping ticks off of our pets and out of our homes is becoming a priority for most pet owners. Companies are looking for ways to meet our expectations. This year, we’ve seen flea and tick collars make a comeback. These new products are low-odor, non-greasy and make claims to repel ticks and kill attaching ticks within eight hours. The initial response to these products has been promising. But until we have a greater number of dogs and cats using them, it’s difficult to say if they provide the solution we seek. My fingers are crossed.
Q: A lot of people get concerned whenever they find a tick on their animal. When do I, as a pet owner, really need to be concerned?
First, please don’t run for a match, rubbing alcohol or nail polish. Avoid these folklore remedies and simply grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible, either with your fingers or a fine-tipped tweezers. Pull up with gentle, steady pressure until the tick comes off. Twisting or jerking can cause the tick’s mouth to break off. If a bit of the mouth remains, don’t panic. Try to gently remove it with clean tweezers. If some still remains, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
Animals don’t get the target lesion that we hear about with humans, but many animals will develop a welt at the site of the tick bite due to a reaction to tick saliva. You can clean the area and apply a little topical antibiotic ointment if it makes you feel better. Most of these welts will go away within a week.
Dr. Amanda Bruce of Superior is owner of PetCare of Duluth, 2701 W. Superior St., Suite 102, Duluth. You can reach her or ask questions for future columns at drbruce@PetCareofDuluth.com or 218-461-4400.