Ask The Vet: Flea and tick prevention important for all pets

Ask The Vet: Flea and tick prevention important for all pets

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Q: How important is flea and tick prevention in Northern Arizona?

A: Northern Arizona is an arid climate that luckily is not conducive to the proliferation of many parasites. However, this does not mean that we do not have parasites, it just means that we have pests specific to this region.

Considering your location is the most critical aspect when looking at the parasite control needs for your pet. This is also important for anyone who travels with their pet as the recommendations for Northern Arizona are quite different than the recommendations for other parts of the United States.

In Northern Arizona, we definitely have ticks, and your pet can get ticks all year round even if you are not taking them outside your own back yard. Tick infestations do not require contact with other dogs, and just because you cannot see the ticks does not mean they are not there. We diagnose tick disease in many animals even when the owners are convinced they have never seen a tick!!

The problem with tick bites is that ticks can carry any number of diseases, including Ehrlichia, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Lyme disease, just to name a few. In fact, there are likely many more tick diseases that we have not even identified yet.

Luckily, it can take up to 48 hours of feeding before a tick will transmit the organisms that cause tick disease. This means that if you have your pet on good tick prevention, the ticks will not transfer the diseases.

Tick disease can be devastating and lead to lifelong medical issues. That's why all pets in Northern Arizona should be on some kind of flea and tick prevention.

There are many products on the market, and some are not very effective. Some can be very harmful to your pet, so I recommend consulting your veterinarian before using any kind of product on your pet.

Most tick prevention is also flea prevention; however, the good news is that we do not have much of a flea problem in Northern Arizona. However, fleas are a huge issue in the rest of the United States, so keeping your pet protected at all times is highly recommended.

Q: When do you recommend the Rattlesnake vaccine for dogs and do all dogs need that vaccine?

A: Now that the weather has warmed up, rattlesnakes are out, and you might encounter one if you venture out with your pet. Typically, we do not see that many around highly populated areas, but if you are hiking or live on the outskirts of town, you could potentially run into one.

Rattlesnakes are known for the very distinctive rattle sound they make when agitated, and when they feel threatened can inflict a potent and poisonous bite.

We look at the possible exposure of your dog to rattlesnakes to determine the need for the vaccine. The vaccine does not protect your dog completely from the venom. So, even if your dog gets the vaccine, it will still need immediate medical care if it is bitten by a snake.

The vaccine is helpful for high-risk dogs as it slows the progression of the venom's clinical signs and will also decrease the actual severity of the damage done by the toxin.

We recommend the vaccine for dogs that are at high risk, which means those dogs that are running off-leash in areas known to have rattlesnakes or dogs that go camping with their owners in very remote areas that potentially have rattlesnakes.

It is important to remember that even if your dog gets the vaccine, it will still need immediate medical attention if bitten by a rattlesnake!

Dr. Julianne Miller is a Flagstaff veterinarian. She can be reached at


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