The Edmond Sun


September 3, 2013

VET Q&A: Tick prevention a must this summer

EDMOND — Q: I have put several topicals on my dog Sam this year and we are still seeing ticks and an occasional flea. We take him walking occasionally around the neighborhood and want him to be safe from bad hitchhikers — especially ticks. Our neighbor’s dog died with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. What should I watch for in Sam?

You are correct in wanting to keep all ticks off Sam. Topicals must be applied at least two days after a bath since they depend on the oils in the skin to distribute over the pet’s body.  He should not go swimming or be bathed for another two or three days after the application of the flea and tick topical.

If you purchased the topical from your veterinarian most of the time there is a guarantee by the manufacturer against failure. You should at least report it to your veterinarian. There are many over-the-counter want-to-be’s that just do not work as well as the original product they are meant to copy. The active ingredient indeed did go off patent protection, but this is only half of the effectiveness of the product.

The carrier is the real key in the effectiveness of the product. A “carrier” is what is responsible for the product moving over the surface of the animal and becoming integrated with oil from the skin and oil glands so that it is stored and remains associated for long-term effectiveness, usually four weeks or so.  Without this carrier, the product just sits there where it was placed and is not very functional. You might want to discuss the mechanism of action with your veterinarian for your particular product and take advantage of any guarantees available.

Perhaps you might want to also discuss the use of a flea and tick collar for protecting your Sam. There is a new collar that lasts for six months that is working well on pets in our area. If Sam likes to swim or play in the rain or other water, you might want to look at the newest eight-month collar. Visit with your veterinarian about the best application for your particular setting and for Sam. The eight-month collar is more “water-resistant” and can tolerate exposure to water. Again, over-the-counter collars cannot compete at this level of effectiveness. Your veterinarian can evaluate each one specific to Sam.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is a serious short-term disease. It has been referred to as the great impersonator since it can mimic a variety of diseases from arthritis to meningitis.

The clinical signs only last from a week to 10 or so days and may go unnoticed until it is too late. It is caused by the bacterium Rickettsia rickettsii carried by ticks.

It is generally true that the tick has to be attached for somewhere between four and 24 hours to transmit the disease. Clinical signs vary from a fever a few days after exposure to a loss of appetite, depression, vomiting, diarrhea, neurologic signs, pain in the abdomen or joints, nasal discharge, red eyes, a cough or muscle pain. Should Sam display one or more of these signs after a known tick exposure, you should take him to your veterinarian for a checkup. Knowing you have infected ticks in your area from the history of your neighbor’s dog makes this even more urgent. The American dog tick the Brown Dog Tick and the Lone Star Tick are all known to carry the bacterium and all can be found in our area.

It is essential to have an accurate and quick diagnosis so that the appropriate antibiotic can be started early on. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever certainly can be fatal as you mentioned from your neighbor’s dog.

As always, prevention is key. Check you, your family and Sam for ticks daily. Consult with your family veterinarian if Sam shows any signs of the disease and your veterinarian can do testing to confirm or deny an infection. If positive, the proper antibiotic will be used and Sam can stay with you for a good long, happy time.                                     


DR. M. MARGARET KING, a longtime Edmond veterinarian, is a guest columnist. If you have any questions for her, email them to



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