The winter should be ending next month, and pet owners should be aware that ticks are hungry after a long cold winter. As soon as temperatures moderate, nymphs from last year look for a host and are already infected with disease organisms. Along with adult ticks, they have the ability to transmit disease.
The risk to pet owners is two-fold. Their pets can be infected by these tiny pests, but people can also get infected on a walk outside, especially near wooded areas such as parks and fields or from contact with the ticks that pets bring into the home.
Adult ticks will be active in the spring and fall. In late spring and early summer the nymphs, which are very small, can attach and transmit Lyme and other tick-borne infections. When treating or preventing parasites, veterinarians always look for products to prescribe that are safe and effective. Over the years we have used short-acting sprays and powders. These products, while somewhat effective for fleas and ticks, were messy and did not have a good residual effect. Some researchers like specific tick collars.
Currently, many veterinarians rely on spot-on products for fleas and ticks that have reasonable control of parasites for a month. Effectiveness of the topical products vary with the ingredients and manufacturing. For fleas, an oral insect growth regulator is helpful to prevent flea eggs from hatching.
Other oral products have "green technology" to kill fleas. Oral products are preferable as part of an integrated pest control program as they avoid chemical residue contact with people and especially children who have close contact with hugs and kisses for the family dog or cat.
A new product for dogs that was recently released may just be what everyone is looking for. NexGard is labeled for monthly oral control of fleas and ticks. The stated label claim is for fleas and the American Dog Tick. More research must be done to gauge how effective it is on other species of ticks such as the deer tick. When new products are marketed, time will tell how well the product works. Experience with the product along with research and testing will show how well it meets expectations of veterinarians and the pet owning public.
The NexGard label does not list any severe adverse reactions, although dogs with seizure disorders should use the product with caution. Vomiting can be a problem but resolves with continued use. A few dogs tested lost appetite. Some of my staff tried the product with good results.
NexGard works by causing a hyper-excitement in the nervous system of insects.
When we advise clients on parasite control, not one product fits every situation. Lifestyles will vary and require a complete history to evaluate exposure. My Maltese, for example, goes to a wooded area almost every week. Outdoor hunting dogs have different considerations from a small indoor house dog that sleeps in bed with the owner.
Discussing your pet with a veterinarian is the best way to find a program that meets your individual needs. Not every veterinarian will use and recommend the same products.
With the addition of oral flea and tick control, we have a new option for combating the misery that fleas and ticks can inflict on pets and people.
Lawrence Gerson is a veterinarian and founder of the Point Breeze Veterinary Clinic. His column appears biweekly. The intent of this column is to educate pet owners. Consultation with a veterinarian is necessary to diagnose and treat individual pets. If you have a question you'd like addressed in Pet Points, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name and municipality or neighborhood.