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Cold Weather Flea & Tick Control

Parasitology

|January 2018|Sponsored

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Cold Weather Flea & Tick Control

Sponsored by Merck Animal Health

The opportunity to educate clients on the real risk of parasites during the winter is beneficial for patients and practices alike. Clients underestimate the duration of ectoparasite risk, and more than 20% of pet owners believe year-round prevention is unnecessary.1

Clients already have a lot to remember this winter; make ectoparasite control one less thing to forget.

How Ectoparasites Persist in Winter

Fleas

For extended periods, fleas—normally intolerant to cold, dry environments—can persist through winter and find new hosts via two measures2:

  • Preemerged adult fleas survive in protected microenvironments waiting for hosts.
  • Adult fleas persist and reproduce on untreated domestic, feral, and wild animals.2

Ticks

Unprotected pets are still at risk during winter months, especially during unexpected warm spells. Ticks do not typically die in cold weather; instead, they simply enter a dormant stage.

Ixodes scapularis—the black legged tick or deer tick and vector of Lyme disease—ranges into southern Canada3 and may stay active as late as December.4 Even then, I scapularis has been found to quest January through March in New York during isolated warm days when temperatures reach above 40°F (4°C)5; in other studies, the species has been shown to quest at temperatures as low as 30.9°F (-0.6°C).6  Dermacentor variabilis becomes active as early as February.4

The Brown Dog Tick, or Rhipicephalus sangineus, is minimally impacted by the outdoor environment.7 It has the widest geographic range of any tick (including the entire continental United States); it is a vector of zoonotic diseases such as babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever; and it can parasitize dogs as well as humans, cats, rabbits, and birds.7

The Brown Dog Tick can complete its entire life cycle exclusively on dogs, reproducing in and around homes and kennels, infesting heated buildings year-round.4 While these enclosed environments shield the species from outdoor environmental variables, this tick is also more tolerant to changes in temperature and humidity than other species.7 Because nymphs and adults of this species release from their hosts at night, ticks may be found crawling on carpets, walls, furniture, and places where dogs sleep—including clients’ beds.6,8

Persistent Infestations

Some cold weather infestations are the result of non-treated pets that were exposed during warm months. If clients believe that cold weather alone will kill all ectoparasites on their pet, leaving them otherwise untreated through the winter months, they may find infestation worsens as parasite life cycles continue unimpeded indoors. Cooler temperatures may actually prolong some parasite life cycles2,9 and delay resolution of infestation. There are additional risks to discontinuing preventative measures; for example, dogs intermittently exposed to fleas may be more symptomatic than dogs continuously exposed to fleas.10

Inconsistent ectoparasite burdens among pets in the same household can confuse clients, who may not understand that patient age, breed, or patient sex7,8 can contribute to variable parasite burdens in an infested home. Unless all pets are appropriately treated, infestation can persist.

Climate & Ecological Changes

Environmental and ecological changes are impacting parasite life cycles. Endemic ranges for several medically important ticks are expanding, including Ixodes scapularis3 and Amblyomma americanum.4 Global variation in temperature and humidity may affect where ticks live, their population size, and how often they bite humans.3,7-9 Habitat modification and host species recolonization also play important roles.3,4 Changing temperatures could also expand fleas’ geographic ranges.11 Clients and clinicians should stay current on evolving ectoparasite risks and can reference resources from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC).

How to Promote Client Adherence

The determination of whether clients give safe, effective flea and tick control correctly and consistently becomes challenging if they use over-the-counter ectoparasiticides. Veterinary-exclusive products allow clients and medical teams to more easily:

  • Evaluate product safety in light of a patient’s signalment and medical history.
  • Determine the ideal option for the client and pet lifestyles.
  • Discuss instructions for safe and effective use.
  • Provide reminders to improve adherence.
  • Address questions and concerns.

Although 73% of general practice clients think they should administer flea and tick prevention year-round, only 13% actually purchase enough product to do so.1 Lengthening re-dosing intervals can improve adherence in human and veterinary medicine for a variety of therapeutics. Clients prefer administering flea and tick preventive every 12 weeks (vs monthly dosing) by a margin of 9 to 1. Clients also feel this product would make them less likely to miss doses,13 resulting in longer coverage and fewer coverage lapses.

Conclusion

Emerging research, changing geographic factors, and new treatment options provide opportunities to reopen client discussions around parasite prevention. Improving year-round adherence to flea and tick prevention can make patients healthier, clients happier, and practices more profitable. What is good for patients is good for the practice.

8  Questions
Multiple Choice Questions
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Cold Weather Flea and Tick Control Quiz

Sponsored by Merck Animal Health

Take this quiz by answering the following multiple choice questions.
1/8  Questions
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Which tick causes infestations year-round inside heated buildings?

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Cold Weather Flea and Tick Control Quiz
2/8  Questions
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Which is not true regarding the winter survival of Ctenocephalides-felis fleas?

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Cold Weather Flea and Tick Control Quiz
3/8  Questions
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What percentage of clients prefer 12-week dosing over monthly dosing?

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Cold Weather Flea and Tick Control Quiz
4/8  Questions
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The majority of pet owners do not associate dosing flea and tick control every 12 weeks with

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Cold Weather Flea and Tick Control Quiz
5/8  Questions
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The brown dog tick Rhipicephalus sanguineus reproduces indoors even during the winter. Which of the following does it NOT transmit?

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Cold Weather Flea and Tick Control Quiz
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Ixodes scapularis may survive (although with some biologic functions impaired) temperatures as low as:

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Cold Weather Flea and Tick Control Quiz
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Pet owners from what US region are least likely to believe their pet needs year-round tick and flea prevention?

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Cold Weather Flea and Tick Control Quiz
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Which of the following has been proposed as a mechanism for expanding ectoparasite ranges?

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Cold Weather Flea and Tick Control Quiz
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Cold Weather Flea and Tick Control Quiz

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References

For global readers, a calculator to convert laboratory values, dosages, and other measurements to SI units can be found here.

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