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Tick Talk

15449166187_902e37d345_zWe have been spoiled with some absolutely gorgeous weather this fall, and I know a lot of people have taken advantage of it to get outside, often with their dogs, and enjoy it. I know I have. Unfortunately, tick season is still in full swing. Even though it’s gotten a bit colder, those little guys are still out and active. And remember– ticks are hardy little bloodsucking parasites. Even when there is snow on the ground, if there is a warm day, they will be out looking for warm bodies to attach to. I know I’ve found plenty of ticks on my dogs after a hike on a mild January day. It’s like it never ends!

Ticks love bushes and overgrowth, long grasses, weeds. They hang out there and wait for a tempting target, then hop on and enjoy the ride. This is gross enough, especially when they bite and attach themselves to your dog (or you), but ticks can carry some nasty diseases such as Lyme and Anaplasmosis. These diseases seem to be especially prevalent in the Mt. Gretna and Cornwall areas, so if you live or hike there, be especially aware. Be sure to check yourself and your pets thoroughly after being outside. And remember, ticks can be absolutely tiny.

What if you find a tick?

There are lots of old-school recommendations on how to remove a tick that include burning it with a match or smothering it in Vaseline. Please do not do either of these things! You risk stressing the bug and causing it to regurgitate all the nasties in its stomach into you or your dog. This is how disease is transmitted, so you want to avoid this when at all possible. Instead, invest in one of the inexpensive tick-removing gadgets such as a tick twister (which we sell here), or a tick spoon. You can also use a pair of tweezers to grasp the tick and gently pull straight out to remove it. Do not panic if the head gets left behind. It is not ideal, but the body will push it out in time. Just keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t get infected or yucky. Sometimes skin tags and moles can look an awful lot like ticks, but only ticks have legs!

After the straight-forward tick-check method of prevention, your next line of defense is the tick-preventative spot-on or oral treatment. For years this has been the role of Frontline Plus, a topical flea and tick medication that kills ticks when the pesticide penetrates their thick shells. In recent years there have been a whole host of other products introduced, but as most of them are toxic to cats, we have stuck with our tried and true Frontline.

lorihikingdogsThis Spring, however, we introduced something completely different– an oral flea AND tick medication that comes in a flavored chewable tablet and lasts for a month. This product is called Nexgard, and we love it. It should not be used in dogs with a history of seizures, and the key difference is that it does require the bug to bite the animal and feed on it in order to be killed, but you are not left with that disgusting greasy spot on your dog’s back, frequent bathing or swimming has no effect on it, and it seems to be very effective at killing off bugs.

Last but not least, we do offer the Lyme vaccine for dogs who are in areas with a large amount of Lyme (again, Mt. Gretna and Cornwall– we’re looking at you). The Lyme vaccine should never ever replace regular tick-checks or a tick-preventative medication, but since we know that no product is perfect, that the tiny deer ticks that pass Lyme to your dog can be very hard to find on a fluffy pooch, and that sometimes maybe we don’t reapply on exactly a monthly schedule, this is something we encourage for dogs in high risk areas.

The problem with the Lyme vaccine is that it can give a little bit of a false sense of security. Lyme disease is so well-known these days, but ticks in this area can carry a host of other diseases, which are not prevented by the Lyme vaccine. Anaplasmosis is the most common, and it can lead to a pretty sick dog, just as Lyme can. So you always always want to use the vaccine as a backup plan, not as a primary method of defense.headhalter

Hopefully this post clears up some of the confusion that might be out there about ticks in this area, how to keep them off your dog, and what diseases they carry. As always, if you have any questions or concerns, whether general or specifically about your pet, give us a call during regular office hours at 665-2338 and someone will be happy to help you figure out the best option for your own pets.

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Posted by on November 3, 2014 in Dogs, Health, parasites, Puppies, Safety

 

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Dealing with the dreaded FLEA INFESTATION.

‘Tis the season for fleas. It seems like they are everywhere right now, and lots of people are struggling with combatting them. There are so many options out there for treating flea problems– treating your pets, treating your house. Let us try to lay out a basic warfare plan for you.

Fighting the flea life cycle is a challenging battle. Most people with flea issues find that fleas seem to come in waves– again and again– making the fight seem impossible to win. It is frustrating, but we are here to help. We agree that it takes a lot of work, but with guidance you can end your flea problem by targeting the life cycle and striking it from multiple angles.

It is time to think like a flea to better understand fleas. By the time you realize you have a flea problem, you are likely six or more weeks into these pests infiltrating your home! In a typical flea population, the adult fleas, which prefer to live on your pet, represent only about 5% of the total flea population. The remaining 95% of the flea population, the eggs, larvae, and pupae, exists in the environment. Depending on temperature and humidity, the completion of the life cycle from egg to larva to pupa to adult flea varies from as short as about two weeks up to one year. An adult flea can survive for three months to one year, with the females laying up to 50 eggs per day. It is imperative to treat all the pets and their home environment (which sometimes includes your car, your garage, and the outside yard area), to get a flea problem completely under control.

To Do List:

Step One — Treat all the Pets

Apply a monthly flea product to every pet that lives or enters your home. We recommend Frontline Plus or Advantage II — the active ingredients in both of these products can be safely used on dogs and cats. If you do not treat every pet, the flea life cycle will continue. Be sure to use the product according to package instructions. You must treat all pets for several months (usually at least three) to break the life cycle of the flea. Do not discontinue treatment after only one or two months. REPEAT THE TOPICAL TREATMENT MONTHLY.

If you are using Frontline Plus, do not bathe your pet for two days before or after applying the product. Advantage II can be applied immediately after a bath and a towel drying.

For a severe infestation, Capstar, an oral pill, will begin killing adult fleas on a pet within an hour of ingestion and continue killing fleas for 24 hours. It’s a like a “flea bath in a pill”.

For dog-only environments, Sentinel, which is a heartworm preventative product, also contains a “birth control for the flea that the dog takes”, thus preventing any viable, hatchable eggs being laid by the fleas.

Step Two — Treat the Indoor Environment

Fleas can seemingly go anywhere. Their eggs can be on your pets, but most will fall off into your carpets and furniture and between the cracks in your floor. Once the eggs hatch, the larva live in similar areas until they spin their cocoons, then finally emerge as adult fleas. And then the life cycle repeats. To stop this process, we recommend Siphotrol Plus Area Treatment — an aerosol can product with both quick kill and residual activity against fleas– or you can hire a professional residential pest control company.

Before treating, vacuum the environment very well, concentrating on the areas where “dust bunnies” go and where your pets spend most of their time. After vacuuming, empty your vacuum canister or bag immediately since flea eggs can hatch inside your vacuum cleaner. Be sure to follow package instructions carefully, treating your entire house, even areas your pet does not enter (fleas still will!). This might include closets, basement, garage, and bathrooms. We recommend use of a spray product like the Siphotrol Plus Area Treatment, because foggers will get good overall coverage but may not reach under furniture, under cushions, or in the nooks and crannies.

Wash your pet’s bedding and your own bedding in hot water.

Repeat this process in 2-3 weeks and then as needed to fully resolve your situation.

Step Three — Treat the Outdoor Environment

It is likely that every time your pet walks outdoors, he or she is picking up new fleas. Fleas are often brought into your yard by wildlife and stray cats– animals who visit your yard when you are not looking. People can actually bring “hitchhiker fleas” into the home on pant legs and shoes. Fleas will enter your house through window screens, cracks, and crevices like any other bug. Check your local retail store (Lowe’s, Home Depot, Tractor Supply) for outdoor sprays or granules to help reduce your pet’s exposure to fleas when they are enjoying the outdoors.

Whew, that was a lot of information! Fleas can be an extremely frustrating problem to deal with, and we totally understand that. If you are having problems that you just cannot get under control, talk to us and maybe we can help. Also, your flea products will have a phone number for the manufacturer on them, and that can also be a helpful resource in combatting stubborn flea issues. Merial, the makers of Frontline Plus, guarantee their product if purchased from a veterinarian, and will even go so far as paying for the home to be treated by an exterminator in some cases.

Things will get better after we start getting some good hard frosts, but if you have a flea problem in your home, the change in seasons will unfortunately not be helpful. Hopefully the steps in this post will help you get back to a happy, pest-free household.

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2013 in Cats, Dogs, fleas, Health, parasites

 

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