Don't get ticked at ticks—get even
Dr. Fred Metzger, DABVP, started finding ticks in February this year. The owner of Metzger Animal Hospital in State College, Pa., knows that ticks are a big problem in his part of the country—but he's never seen it this bad. In Dr. Metzger's 23 years of practice, the last 10 have been among the worst for ticks, and each year is worse than the one before, he says.
DEVELOP A STANDARD OF CARE
The good news is that Dr. Metzger's clients are aware of the tick problem and they know that these nasty critters can spread Lyme disease. At Metzger Animal Hospital, it's a standard of care to test every dog for Lyme disease, whether it's an indoor-only dog or not. And his compliance rate is high: about 95 percent, he estimates.Dr. Metzger uses a simple in-house test that requires only a few drops of a pet's blood. In addition to Lyme disease, the test also detects heartworm infection, ehrlichiosis, and anaplasmosis. Dr. Metzger and his team test patients every year as part of these pets' wellness visits.
It's also Dr. Metzger's standard of care to vaccinate all dogs at risk for Lyme disease. And at his practice, that includes any dog who visits wooded areas or spends significant time outdoors. He also communicates to clients about the vaccine's effectiveness. "I tell the client about our experiences with the vaccine in other patients and that my four dogs are vaccinated," Dr. Metzger says.
He's never seen a clinical Lyme disease case in any previously vaccinated patient. "The Lyme vaccine is an important tool in the prevention of the disease in at-risk patients," he says. In addition to the blood test and the vaccine, Dr. Metzger recommends a year-round topical preventive to fight fleas and ticks.
To be sure he really sends a message about ticks and Lyme disease, Dr. Metzger uses interactive devices that display informative videos in every exam room. (For more on Dr. Metzger's client communication strategies, see "How I wow clients" at http://dvm360.com/, or read the article in the March 2009 issue of Veterinary Economics.) His clients love using the technology to stay up to date on the latest information about tick-borne diseases.
DISMANTLE A TICKING TIME BOMB
By taking a year-round approach to battling ticks, Dr. Metzger knows he's doing what he can to help his patients stay healthy. If a client doesn't opt for a year-round approach, he starts the pet on a preventive in March or early April at the latest, and keeps the pet on it for at least six months. This at least protects the pet up until the season ends—a season that, to Dr. Metzger, seems to be getting longer and longer.