Have you had the tick talk with veterinary clients?
"One white-tailed deer can support more than 450,000 ticks in a year," says Dr. Julie Clark-Blount, owner of Laurel Oaks Animal Hospital in Kingsland, Ga. And if you calculate about one deer per acre of land, depending on your area—that's a lot of ticks looking to nibble on your patients. That's why Dr. Clark-Blount and her whole team talk to clients about ticks every time they come into the clinic.
"The receptionists are the troubleshooters in the veterinary clinic," she says. They get to the bottom of tick problems with questions like:
> Is this the first time you've seen a tick on Bear?
> Is your pet currently on any preventives? If so, which ones?
> Where did you purchase the preventives?
> When was the last time you treated your pet?
> Do you live near a wooded area?
> Do you take Bear on walks outside?
> Do you take him to the dog park?
Remember, these bloodsuckers don't discriminate—in other words, you can't judge a tick-infested pet by his owner. "One patient came in covered in hundreds of ticks. The owner was a newscaster and had a nice yard and lived in a nice neighborhood," Dr. Clark-Blount says. "Ticks had infested her home—they were crawling up the walls. She had to throw out a couch."
This is why Dr. Clark-Blount highly recommends getting to know your area and finding local tick hot spots. The more you research nearby neighborhoods, the better you can warn clients, she says. It's also a good idea to debunk common tick myths in the exam room.
"Lighting a match behind an embedded tick and covering it with Vaseline or alcohol are old wives' tales," Dr. Clark-Blount says. "Actually these actions can aggravate ticks and make them throw up, essentially shooting Lyme disease right into the pet." Head to dvm360.com/ticktoolkit to download a client handout that explains the correct way to remove a tick and busts more common tick myths (like Lyme disease is the only illness that ticks can transmit to dogs and humans and more), plus, other tools to aid in client communication.
Another common misconception: Indoor cats don't need to be on preventives. The truth is that dogs can bring ticks into the house. And you never know—Beatrice could get out accidentally, Dr. Clark-Blount says. Pet owners need to know that ticks can give cats cytauxzoonosis—a disease that's fatal to felines. "We've seen quite a few cases of it but we usually can't diagnose it until it's too late," Dr. Clark-Blount says. For example, a client recently brought her cat into Laurel Oaks Animal Hospital and the pet died within five hours. Soon after, Dr. Clark-Blount sent the patient's body to the lab for testing and, sure enough, the cat had contracted cytauxzoonosis.
"Educate clients and explain that they should be especially cautious this year because of the warmer-than-normal weather," Dr. Clark-Blount says. "Tick hosts are surviving through the winter—ticks just aren't as seasonal as they used to be." Dr. Clark-Blount suggests recommending year-round tick prevention to your clients so your patients will always be protected.