Massapequa Hospital For Animals primarily focuses on prevention. Prevention is important because it stops a serious problem before it starts. If you are starting to notice signs and symptoms of fleas and ticks that indicate that you are already dealing with an infestation. It is best to not reach that stage. With good education and the right prevention products you can easily avoid a flea and tick infestations.
A proactive approach to flea and tick prevention starts with a discussion about various factors that play a role in your pet's potential exposure to fleas and ticks. For example, if your cats are indoor/outdoor is a factor, as well as whether they are exposed to other animals that go outside (including pets of friends or family that may come over for a visit).
You can prevent the serious complications of tick borne disease or illness by controlling the tick exposure for your dog and by vaccination against Lyme disease.
There are a number of products that we can recommend to minimize your dog’s exposure. The old mainstay of prevention has been the use of topically applied parasiticides, such as Frontline Gold and Effitix. These are applied in a line down the dog’s back from the neck/shoulders to the pelvic area, making certain that you part the hair well in order for the product to contact the skin. It is used monthly. In addition to controlling ticks, there products also kill fleas. A disadvantage or concern with these products is that you should not bathe your dog within a 24 to 48 hour period either before or after application. In addition, if you have young children in your home, there is a concern about their contacting, with their hands, the product while it is still wet on your canine family member.
For the last 3 years, we also have an oral tablet, Nexgard, given once monthly. This product is very effective against ticks and also fleas. Many clients prefer the oral tablet as opposed to the topical product, because of the ease of administration and avoiding the other concerns mentioned above. There are other products commercially available, however these are the ones that we believe are best suited for our canine patients.
In addition, we have for the past year used a state of the art vaccine, Vanguard crLyme, produced by Zoetis Animal Health, to prevent Lyme disease. Two doses administered 3 weeks apart with a single annual booster are recommended for maximum protection. Unfortunately there are no vaccines yet for the other tick borne diseases, hence prevention is most important.
To summarize, we are greatly concerned with tick borne illnesses. We can test for the most common diseases with a simple in-office blood test and treat for the illnesses if diagnosed. However we stress preventing these diseases by tick control with either an oral or topical product and by vaccinating specifically for Lyme disease.
Over the past few years the tick situation on Long island has become more significant and serious. Ticks are responsible for carrying a number of different diseases of importance to both human health and pet health. We used to think that tick borne disease was only a regional problem on the East End and on Fire Island. We also were not concerned with a “backyard Massapequa area” dog being exposed to ticks. These are no longer accurate perceptions. Ticks can be brought into your backyard by any animal, including birds. Depending upon where you live, squirrels, mice, rabbits, raccoons, deer, foxes and others can all be responsible for introducing ticks onto your local property.
There are a number of tick borne diseases that we can see in a dog. We can easily test for the most common infections with an in-office test known as 4DX. This test detects Lyme disease, two strains of Ehrlichia and 2 strains of Anaplasma. These are all bacterial infections spread by tick bites. Lyme disease is carried by the “deer” tick, while the other diseases are transmitted through the bite of the various “dog” ticks.
At the Massapequa Hospital for Animals, we tested approximately 1,000 dogs in a recent 12 month period. Of these, 45 tested positive on the 4DX test for one of the above mentioned diseases. That is almost 5% or 1 out of 20 dogs! Many of these were backyard confined pets. Some were significantly ill with disease. Fortunately, some were not sick and had only been exposed without developing illness. Any dog that tests positive goes through further testing to check the health status of their kidneys and liver. Their white and red blood cell counts, their platelet count and a urinalysis are also evaluated. After this information is obtained, the doctors decide upon treatment options and for what duration of time.
Because of the serious nature of these illnesses and the increased recognition of their threat to local pets, we have incorporated annual 4DX testing into our health care protocol for dogs. If you are interested in having a complete health examination performed, including the above mentioned 4DX test, please call our office for an appointment.