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Take care this tick season

Tick season is just about upon us and, while there are many options for tick control, one of the most promoted may be the most concerning.

Essential oil repellents, which use naturally derived repellents are all pretty safe, except in cases of extreme sensitivity. Some companies sell products which address the tick population itself — small tubes with attractants inside which lure ticks into a space where they are then killed, preventing them from multiplying or attaching themselves to your pets. These are meant to be distributed around a property and regularly replaced.

Then there are chemical preparations for your pets, which are much stronger but come with their own set of concerns. Animals with sensitivities can have reactions, and if they are topical drops they can cause skin irritation.

The tick medications I am now seeing every day in my feeds are only available through veterinarians, and they are designed to prevent fleas and tick infestations. Some even extend to protect against heartworm and other worms. These preparations rely on neurotoxins that kill the parasite after it bites. They can be very effective and, in places where tick infestations are too heavy for natural prevention, they may be the only option. However, in places where ticks are not a huge concern, use of these very strong products may not be warranted.

When looking at any treatment option, side effects must be considered. When a treatment has a warning such as “may cause neurologic signs such as tremors, unsteadiness and/or seizures in dogs with or without a history of neurologic disorders. The product has not been evaluated in pregnant, breeding or lactating dogs. The most common adverse reactions in clinical trials were vomiting and diarrhea,” red flags should be raised.

Neurological damage is not something we want to mess with. This makes it more important than ever to discuss your pets’ current and past issues as well as the potential side effects of any treatment protocol. If the history of the pet isn’t complete because of changes at the clinic, or if a vet is new to you and unfamiliar with concerns you may have, you need to make sure that both you and the vet working together to ensure you choose the right option for your pets.

Sometimes a few extra minutes of discussion may reveal a cause for concern or lead you to decide that this level of tick prevention may not be worth the risk.