The power of prevention
Amidst the apparent doom and gloom of the current tick situation, one common theme is echoed in parasitology camps—preventives
are crucial. CAPC continues to recommend year-round parasite control for both dogs and cats. Additionally, the organization
recommends regular examinations—at least annually—by a veterinarian. "While virtually all infestations of parasites are preventable,
estimates indicate that fewer than half the dogs in the country are protected," says Chris Carpenter, DVM, MBA, executive
director for CAPC.
So why are so few animals protected throughout the year? Little states that many pet owners think they can take their animals
off tick preventives in the winter, because it's too cold for ticks to survive in their area. And that's a problem. "It only
takes a day or two of nice weather for the ticks to become active and start questing," she says. "Every season is tick season."
Although year-round preventive compliance rates are low among dog owners, they're almost nonexistent among cat owners. "Cats
are not getting to the veterinarians often enough," says Bowman. "All cats should be on some sort of flea control. And if
they're going to go outside, they need flea and tick protection."
Little backs up this point by citing recent research from her colleague Mason Reichard, MS, PhD, associate professor of veterinary
pathobiology at Oklahoma State University Center for Veterinary Health Sciences. Reichard recently showed in an experimental
model that using persistent acaricides on cats protects them from cytauxzoonosis, an often-fatal but preventable disease.
"Cats, as we all know, are the underserved companion animal species when it comes to preventive care," says Little. "And that
is true for protection from vector-borne infections as well."
Manufacturers of antiparasite products have made it increasingly easier for pet owners to comply with year-round preventive
recommendations. From long-lasting flea and tick collars to monthly oral or topical preventives that often combat multiple
internal and external parasites, there are a wide range of choices available for even the most reluctant pet owner. But it
still starts with a recommendation and education from the veterinarian.
"We know now that ticks are out every month of the year," says Little. "We also know that they transmit more pathogens than
we previously realized. Tick control protects pets from all of these infections—the known and the unknown. It really is a
central part of wellness care."