Flea, Tick and Heartworm Prevention
The weather has started to warm up, everyone is getting outside more, the birds are singing, and the fleas and ticks are coming out to play. Now is the time to get your pet into the Veterinarian for a yearly heartworm test (which also tests for Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis, and Ehrlichiosis), and get them started on a monthly flea and tick preventative. We can test for these three tick transmitted diseases as well as heartworm disease with a simple blood test that is run in clinic and is usually completed before your appointment is over. We recommend testing every spring before the tick and mosquito season gets underway, starting flea and tick preventative when the ground starts to thaw and continuing to administer preventative monthly until the first hard frost in the fall/winter.
Fleas are most commonly spread by contact with other animals, mostly neighborhood mice and rabbits. They can cause excessive itching, hairloss, and flea allergic dermatitis, which may require additional treatment. The hassle of having to rid your home of fleas is also a burden that is easy to prevent with simple use of a monthly flea and tick preventative. For the most part, fleas will leave you alone. They may jump on you, but will quickly jump off as they cannot live on us.
Ticks are more prominant in tall grass or wooded areas but, make no mistake, are also being seen within city limits. They are already hatching for the spring season. We are seeing ticks move into more populated areas every year, which means your pet can be at risk for tick bites and tick transmitted diseases even if they are staying within city limits. Besides ingesting blood from you and your pet, ticks also spread disease. In recent years, the number of tick transmitted diseases we are finding in our canines are climbing and have even been found in dogs that never leave the city of Grand Forks. The three main tick transmitted diseases that we see are Lyme, Anaplasmosis, and Ehrlichiosis. Lyme disease is the most common tick transmitted disease people hear about and it is definitely in our area. Lyme can cause joint pain, lethargy, vomiting and fever. Anaplasmosis can cause low platelets, fever, and spontaneous hemorrhage. Ehrlichiosis is similar to Anaplasmosis but possibly slightly more severe. There can also be complications if clinical symptoms are seen and left untreated.
In addition to testing, you can help avoid your pet contracting these diseases in the first place through preventatives. There is a lyme vaccine available that we usually recommend for hunting dogs and dogs that would be visiting lake/wooded areas in Minnesota where Lyme disease is endemic. The lyme vaccine is a series of vaccines. It begins with an initial vaccine and needs to be boostered within 2-3 weeks. The vaccine then needs to be boostered yearly. We also recommend using a flea and tick preventative for any dog or cat no matter where you live or how often they go outside. For dogs, we carry two preventatives, Frontline or Nexgard. Frontline is probably the most popular and well known. It is a topical spot-on liquid that you put on the skin on the back of the neck once a month. It works well against fleas, but we are seeing some resistance in heavily tick-ridden areas. The drawbacks of Frontline are, you must keep your pet dry for approximately 48 hours before and after applying it, along with leaving a greasy spot on the back of their neck. It can also more difficult to apply directly to the skin of thick or longhaired dogs. Some dogs may feel a “creepy-crawly” sensation on their skin, which makes them less likely to sit and allow the product to be applied monthly. Some can even have skin reactions were the product is applied . This is where Nexgard is fastly becoming more popular to clients. Nexgard is a monthly chewable tablet for flea and tick prevention that is flavored and in most cases will be eaten like a treat. We have seen little side effects with Nexgard. The most common side effect is vomiting. Since it is a new product we are not seeing resistance at this time. For cats we have both Frontline and Revolution. Revolution is different in that it doesn’t prevent against ticks but does well against fleas.
Heartworm disease is rare in our region, but is still a risk for our dogs. Heartworm is spread through mosquito bites. Even if your dog is indoor most of the time they are still at risk of contracting heartworm and need to be given preventative to ensure they are protected. In order to have heartworm prevention prescribed, your dog will need to have a current negative heartworm test. We use Heartgard for heartworm prevention in our clinic. Heartgard is a monthly flavored chew that we recommend using June through November for dogs that stay in our region. We recommend year-round use for dogs that travel south. Heartgard works backwards a month, which means that when we start Heartgard in June, your dog is actually protected for the month of May.
Prevention of fleas, tick transmitted diseases, and heartworm is safer and much more cost effective than having to treat your animals for these ailments. So now that summer is upon us, be sure to make an appointment with your Veterinarian so your animals are ready and safe for the warm months ahead.