What’s New for Fleas and Ticks?

April 24, 2013

scratching dogTicks have been around forever. Even the ancient Roman author, Pliny the Elder (23-79 A.D.) was vexed by these creatures. He is reported to have said, “Ticks: the foulest and nastiest creatures that be.” Ancient Rome must not have had fleas, or Pliny would have included them on his nasty creature list as well. Besides being nasty, fleas and ticks spread disease to you and your pets.

A new kind of collar

Collars to prevent flea and tick infestations have been around a long time, but their effectiveness has been limited. A veterinary school professor of mine said, “The only fleas killed by a flea collar are those squashed when the collar is put around the pet’s neck.” Polymer technology has advanced flea collars from a dusty plastic strap to a timed release medical device, and in the newest version even repels ticks before they attach. For additional information on year-round flea and tick control, check with the Companion Animal Parasite Council.

A new way to remove ticks

One of my most frequent calls is from an owner who finds a tick attached to their dog or cat and wants to know how to get rid of the nasty critter. The internet is rife with misinformation on how to remove ticks – nail polish remover, smoking matches and petroleum jelly. All of these are bad ideas. Either grasp the tick firmly with tweezers or a tick removing device and pull the tick, head included, out of the skin. This is easier said than done in a wiggly dog with a teeny tiny embedded deer tick. Now, there is a way that will make pet owners ecstatic with an easier way! A new a non-toxic product has been designed and produced to loosen the tick’s grip on the skin and allow it to be lifted off your pet with a cotton ball or moistened pad.

A new method to decrease ticks in the environment

Currently under investigation for the control of Lyme disease are bait boxes for mice. This clever study aims to attack Lyme disease where it starts, with the deer ticks that feed on the reservoir host of the Lyme disease bacteria: the white footed mouse. Bait boxes are placed outdoors. Mice enter the box and a mouse sized dose of fipronyl gets rubbed on their back. Fipronyl is an Environmental Protection Agency registered product found in several top spot tick and flea preventative medications for dogs and cats. When applied to mice, it kills ticks, decreasing the number of ticks which can bite you and your family.

Do you still want more information about ticks? The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station has an exhaustive tick handbook available online.

Confused about flea and tick preventatives for your dog and cat? Make an appointment with your veterinarian to find the right prescription for your pets. Follow their directions exactly, because reactions to flea and tick products are most commonly due to improper use of these products.


Rat Poison and Pets: Diagnosis and Treatment

February 13, 2012

In my last post I wrote about rodenticides and the dangers they pose if ingested by our animal companions. This post will describe the clinical signs and treatment of dogs with rodenticide intoxication, including both anticoagulant and vitamin D poisons.

The photograph shows a hemorrhage in the retina from rodenticide poisoning.

Anticoagulant rodenticides

Ingestion of this type of rat poison by dogs typically causes internal hemorrhage, anemia, and, in the worst cases, death. If your dog has ingested this type of poison, you might notice a bloody nose, blood in the stool or urine, and a general lack of energy from anemia due to blood loss. Many dog owners do not realize rat poison has been placed by their landlord or an exterminator until an emergency room veterinarian suspects rodenticide intoxication. A blood test showing abnormal blood clotting can confirm the diagnosis.

Anticoagulant rodenticide intoxication can be successfully treated. The antidote is vitamin K, but not the type of vitamin K available in a health food store; a prescription is required. Severely ill dogs will require hospitalization, blood transfusions, and close monitoring in an intensive care unit. The good news is, most will recover.

Vitamin D analogues

Minor elevations in blood calcium caused by ingestion of vitamin D analogue rat poisons will cause your pet to increase its drinking and urination. If the exposure to vitamin D analogue rat poison is prolonged or the amount ingested large, kidney damage, seizures, and death can occur.

For veterinarians, making a diagnosis of vitamin D rodenticide intoxication can be challenging. An increase in drinking and urination is not specific for vitamin D rodenticide intoxication and is a common finding in several disorders, including diabetes, kidney failure and pyometra.

Routine bloodwork can readily identify elevated calcium levels, but like an increase in drinking and urination, elevation of calcium levels is nonspecific and occurs in several disorders, including kidney failure, lymphoma, and an overactive parathyroid gland. A dog with elevated calcium levels often needs an extensive medical evaluation to determine if rodenticide intoxication is causing the elevation in calcium levels.

Treatment of vitamin D rodenticide intoxication can be equally as challenging and require administration of several different treatments to bring the calcium down. Hospitalization is frequently required for administration of intravenous fluids and diuretics. The hormone calcitonin has also been used to lower dangerously high calcium levels and steroids may also be used to increase calcium excretion in the urine.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and in the case of rodenticides, cautious use could save your pet’s life. The Environmental Protection Agency has a very useful consumer website on rodenticides and their safe use in homes with pets. It may be worth your pet’s life to check it out.

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This may also be found in the Tales from the Pet Clinic blog on WebMD.com.

For over a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


Flea & Tick Treatments: Are They Safe or Not?

June 15, 2009

You may have heard or read recent media reports about pet owners who believe their animals have experienced harmful side effects from the use of “spot on” or “top spot” flea and tick preventatives. In fact, a recent article in the Wall Street Journal states that “the number of incidents reported to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the agency which regulates these pet treatments has increased 53% over the past year.”

frontline-applicationThis statistic came from a statement issued on April 16, 2009 by the Environmental Protection Agency announcing an increase in adverse event reports associated with application of EPA approved spot on flea and tick preventatives. The statement suggests that  The EPA will be intensifying its evaluation of all approved spot on products and issued an consumer advisory.

Does this mean you should stop administering the preventative to your dog or cat? Not at all, but it does mean you need to do some legwork to be your pet’s best healthcare advocate.

First, scrutinize the data. If product A has 100 adverse events reported and product B has ten adverse events reported, does that mean product A is ten times more likely to cause an adverse event than product B? Not necessarily.  The answer depends on how many doses of both products have been administered. If 100,000 doses of product A have been administered, it has an adverse reaction rate of 0.1%. If 10,000 doses of product B have been administered, it has an equal adverse reaction rate of 0.1%. 

cat-scratchingSecond, talk to your veterinarian. Have a conversation about the risks in your community of fleas and ticks carrying an infection. An urban, apartment-dwelling pet is not very likely to get ticks, but fleas can easily be transmitted in a carpeted apartment building hallway.  During this discussion, you and your veterinarian can choose the preventative for the pests most likely to affect your pet.  Your veterinarian will also know which flea and tick preventatives work best in your neighborhood. 

Finally, successful use of any medication requires you to follow the manufacturers guidelines and flea and tick preventatives are no different. In fact, the EPA reports the majority of adverse event occur because the pet owner does not follow the manufacturer’s guideline for use of the products. These guidelines are developed with your pet’s health and safety in mind.

This announcement involves only the spot on flea and tick preventatives under the jurisdiction of the EPA. Some flea and tick products are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine. For additional information and a list of EPA regulated products, visit these sites:
http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/health/prodname-reg.pdf
http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/health/flea-tick-control.html

The EPA suggests the following resources:
• The National Pesticide Information Center has collated information for consumers in the Least Toxic Pest Control Guide
• Less-Toxic Product List, a resource guide by Our Water, Our World

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For nearly a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts.  Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


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