Ticks are already having a banner year in Connecticut. This is especially evident with our pets as we pull off multiple ticks a day. The last few years have been relatively quiet but now the American dog ticks and Deer ticks, or Black-legged tick, have rebounded in our area. New species have recently been reported in southern Connecticut with the appearance of the Asian long-horned tick, the Gulf coast tick, and the Lone star tick. The big, and fast, American dog ticks can potentially spread Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. The three new ticks are also disease vectors that can transmit serious illnesses to pets and livestock as well as humans. These diseases include ehrlichia, rickettsial infections, and tularemia.
Of course, the biggest worry in our area is the tiny and notorious deer tick that spreads Lyme disease and anaplasmosis. Over 2,000 cases of Lyme disease were reported in people in Connecticut last year. Many more cases are diagnosed and treated with our pets especially dogs and horses.
What can we do for our pets? It is important to carefully inspect pets and pull off any ticks that are crawling on their coats. A flea comb is handy especially around the ears, face, and top of the head. A comb works well on the deer tick pre-adults (nymphs) that also transmit diseases. In addition to close inspection it is recommended to use tick preventatives. There are topicals, oral medications, and collars.
The oral medications are becoming more popular because they are safe, very effective and given as a chewy treat. The FDA-approved oral drugs in the class are called isoxazolines. The isoxazoline brand names are: Nexgard, Bravecto, Credelio, and Simparica. They are also very effective against fleas and some cases of mange. There have been rare cases of neurologic side effects so it is important to consult with your veterinarian about these prescription drugs.
The Seresto collar has been on the market since 2012 and is very popular. It is supposed to kill fleas and ticks for eight months if the collar is kept dry. It should be removed from the dog during bathing and when swimming to ensure effectiveness. Seresto collars have come under greater scrutiny recently due to reports of adverse side effects. The EPA regulates flea collars and has had more than 75,000 incident reports that included 1,700 deaths. Many of these reports are anecdotal and most veterinary experts consider Seresto collars to be safe. Most of the illnesses were GI in nature and resulted from ingesting the collars. Counterfeit collars that are ordered online are produced in China and may result in skin irritation and other reactions.
Don’t forget to treat your cats too. Topicals are still the best bet with Bravecto and Frontline leading the way. Seresto collars are also available for cats. Flea combs are a must for cats that go outdoors.
So good luck with the tick plague this spring. Let’s hope for some improvement this summer.