all starting to spend more time outdoors. When we have our dogs outside to
enjoy this time with us, we need to remember to protect them with a flea and
tick preventive. Did you know that fleas and ticks can carry disease? The most
common tick borne diseases of clinical significance are: Lyme Disease (Borrelia
burgdorferi and a new strain Borrelia mayonii), Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
(Rickettsia rickettsii), Ehrlichiosis (Ehrlichia canis and Ehrlichia ewingii),
Anaplasmosis (Anaplasma phagocytophilum and Anaplasma platys), and
Haemobartonellosis (Mycoplasma Haemocanis).
Many of these diseases present with very similar symptoms that can easily be
confused with other disease processes. These include: joint pain, fever, vomiting,
diarrhea, decreased appetite, and swollen lymph nodes. In rare circumstances
even more serious complications can arise such as nervous system disorders,
kidney or liver failure, and even generalized weakness extending to paralysis
The questions you should ask yourself are: 1) Is my dog at risk? 2) What can I do
to decrease these risks? and 3) What should I do if I feel that my dog has been
exposed to ticks or is showing signs of a Tick-borne Illness?
1) What Are the Risk Factors for Tick Bites?
a) Is your dog indoors 90% of the time or outdoors 90% of the time? If your dog
spends most of his day watching TV and napping on the couch then the risk is
pretty low, but if he is wandering the backyard all day except for dinnertime and
bedtime, then the risk is likely higher.
b) What kind of environment does your dog live in? Does your yard have tall
grasses, is it near a wooded area, or is there wildlife that passes through? Also,
remember to take into consideration any travel, camping, trips to the lake, trips
“Up North” etc.
c) Have you seen ticks on your dog or on you? They are fairly simple to
recognize. If you have already seen ticks, then you can know that the risk for
future exposure is high.
d) Beware the Deer Tick! It is the tick that carries Lyme Disease and it is also the
smallest tick, measuring only 1-5mm in size (as small as a sesame seed!). As you
can imagine, this is pretty difficult to spot through a thick coat of fur. ( pictured
2) What can I do if I think my dog is at risk?
a) Use a tick preventive. There are many on the market, and we realize it may be
hard to figure out which one is the best option for your pet. But there are some
helpful “rules” to keep in mind.
i) The First Rule is “Don’t skimp”. If a product you are considering is a fraction
of the price of everything else on the shelf, it likely doesn’t work very well
(or is not as safe).
ii) The Second Rule is “ALWAYS follow the package instructions”. If it says
“Place on the skin every 30 days” it means on the skin, not on the fur... and
it means every 30 days, not less frequently. Many of these products start to
wear off after 4 weeks and if you apply them every 45-60 days, you are likely
leaving your pet unprotected. Additionally, if it says give with food and you don’t,
it might not work.
iii) The Third Rule is “If all else fails (or even if it doesn’t) ask one of our
Veterinary Health Care Team to offer advice”.
b) Consider getting the Lyme vaccine for your dog. If you feel that your dog
is at risk for exposure (http://www.dogsandticks.com/diseases_in_your_area.php),
there is a safe vaccine available for Lyme Disease. This is a once yearly vaccine
but does need an initial booster 3-4 weeks after the very first vaccination. We do
not consider this a “Core Vaccine”, but rather a “Lifestyle Vaccine” so it is not
recommended for every dog. If you are unsure if your dog has gotten this vaccine
be sure to check with us.
3) What do I do if I feel that my dog has been exposed?
a) Contact us to discuss your concerns with one of our Veterinary Health Care
b) Sometimes all that is needed is a simple blood test (like our in-hospital 4DX
Plus Test) that screens for Heartworm Disease as well as the common Tick-Borne
c) Other times (depending on the history of exposure) we may discuss sending off
a specialized blood panel to further assess these diseases.
At Temperance Animal Hospital we carry and recommend three different options for Tick Protection in your dog.
1) Bravecto Oral: This is a chewable treat that is given every 3 months (12 weeks)
with a meal. This product will offer reliable protection against both ticks and
fleas without any topical application, no chemical residue and no chance of
washing off in the lake (or during a bath).
2) Parastar Topical: This is a once monthly topical flea and tick preventive. With
this product it is important to get the product on the skin (not in the fur) and
that your dog does not swim or bathe for 48 hours before or after the
application. This should be reapplied every 30 days.
3) Scalibor Protector Band for Dogs: This is an option for long lasting flea and tick protection for up to 6 months. It comes as a low odor, low residue collar that is
labelled to be water resistant.
*It is important to note that nearly all of the flea and tick preventions available
for our dogs do not include any heartworm or intestinal parasite coverage.
Your heartworm and intestinal parasite medication should be given in addition
to whatever flea and tick prevention you choose for your pet.