Tick Talk: Hear From Pet Owners What They Want in Parasite Protection
By Aleksandra Sobic, Patterson Veterinary
This afternoon, you could spend a few hours scrolling through TikTok, but why not spend a few minutes scrolling through “TickTalk?”
Filled with enlightening new data sourced by Elanco, this blog post may not help you learn the steps to the latest dance challenge, but it will help you learn the steps clients expect you to take when creating a parasite protection plan. It may not help you gather ideas for your fall wardrobe, but it will help you gather ideas for how to protect your patients from ticks this fall. And it may not inspire you to tackle a home renovation project, but it may inspire you to tackle client communication in a new way, leading to increased trust and compliance.
What makes ticks tick?
Even though the start of fall signals a decline in many types of pests like flies and mosquitos, tick season rages on across a large swath of the United States. In order to most effectively battle against these pesky parasites, which are known to cause a range of illnesses including Lyme disease, tularemia and tick paralysis, we must first understand what makes ticks tick – you know, “Know thy enemy.”
For such miniscule mites, the process ticks use to feed, salivate and subsequently transmit disease is surprisingly complex. Here are five elements of the #TickTechnique:
- Ticks use one canal to feed and spit. A common feeding canal can both suck fluids in, and spit saliva out
- Unlike mosquitos or fleas, which feed directly from high pressure capillaries, ticks are pool feeders that feed from low pressure pools of blood
- Ticks have very powerful suction. They are able to generate enough suction to pull in blood as well as tissue fluid
- In order to spit saliva back into the host, ticks also have very forceful salivation
- Ticks create the forces required to suck and spit by relaxing and contracting muscles within their highly innervated feeding apparatus. This process is referred to as neuromuscular pumping
Plan of attick attack
From chewable tablets, to topical applications, to collars, sprays, and injectables, there are a wide variety of options for safeguarding pets against ticks, fleas, and other parasites. The best prevention programs use well-researched, reliable products that take into account an animal’s age, health history, and other existing treatment protocols. But where to go from there? A recent study points to the power and potency of chewable tablet Credelio (lotilaner) when it comes to hampering even the hardiest of opponents: the Lone Star tick. Yes, just as residents of the Lone Star State are known for being tough, so, too, is this species of tick.
The study measured early effects of lotilaner on Lone Star tick feeding and survival at various intervals – two hours, four hours, eight hours, and 24 hours. Attached ticks were removed at each of these time points for analysis. The ticks’ ability to gain weight was assessed, as well as the time it took for the ticks to reach a lethal amount of lotilaner ingestion. These are some of the key findings:
- Within only 2 hours of lotilaner exposure, Lone Star ticks showed vast neuromuscular breakdown, leading to impaired feeding, salivary gland dysfunction and, ultimately, death
- Ticks lost weight due to their lack of ability to replenish water, as well as dysfunction of the muscles and nerves needed to suck in blood and tissue fluid
- Ticks died of dehydration because of disruption to their salivary glands, key organs ticks rely on to maintain water balance and pass diseases
- Fewer ticks attached to treated dogs when compared to control dogs. Disruption of attachment occurred.
Freshly armed with [an alarming amount of] knowledge of the inner workings of a tick’s mouth parts, as well as some excellent options for fighting the foe, what’s the best way to share this information with pet owners and reach a shared understanding of the importance of parasite prevention? Yet another new study may hold the key.
Pet parents sound off about parasite protection
Clients may only visit your clinic a couple of times per year, which means you have a limited amount of time to share a lot of important information. Unfortunately, this may lead to filling in the gaps with assumptions about pet owner preferences that may seem to be true, but aren’t grounded in data.
The best way to find out what pet parents prioritize when it comes to protecting their animals from parasites is…to ask them! And since we’re guessing you probably don’t have time to pick up your phone and conduct an in-depth call with each and every one of your customers about parasites, let’s instead share the results of a 2021 Elanco study that surveyed more than 2,000 U.S. dog owners. These research-based insights were collected to help veterinarians:
- Identify opportunities to increase and maintain trust in your recommendations
- Understand the value dog owners place on convenience, cost, and spectrum of protection
- Avoid misunderstandings that could negatively impact the relationship
- Provide care that aligns with dog owner preferences as well as your own goals for compliance and protection
- Make the most of every visit!
Some of the findings, like the fact that veterinarians are the highest rated source of parasite control information, may not come as a complete shock. Other takeaways, like the fact that comprehensive protection was indicated to be more important than convenience or price, may surprise you. Here are some of the standout stats:
Trust is a must
- 94% of surveyed pet owners trusted their veterinarian for information about parasite control, which was more than any other source, including websites
- Nearly 1 in 5 of the surveyed pet owners indicated they would lose trust in their veterinarian, if his or her recommendation provided less worm coverage than expected
- Nearly 50% of those surveyed indicated they would be disappointed to find out that the product recommended by their veterinarian offered less worm coverage than they thought
- Less than 1 in 10 of those surveyed said they would be satisfied, if their dog received less worm coverage than expected
Expect the unexpected
- 75% of surveyed pet owners indicated that they would rather proactively protect against tapeworm and whipworm infections, than reactively treat them
- 3 out of 4 of the surveyed pet owners indicated that they would choose comprehensive protection over perceived convenience
- When requesting comprehensive parasite protection from their veterinarian, 86% of those surveyed expected five-worm coverage instead of three-worm coverage (heartworm, hookworm, roundworm, whipworm, and tapeworm)
- Over 90% of those surveyed said they would pay more for a prevention solution that covered all five of the most common parasitic worms that infect dogs
The graphic below provides a visual summary of additional high-level takeaways from the extensive survey:
While TikTok may offer a behind-the-scenes look at how to orchestrate a seamless prank, we hope you found that “TickTalk” offered a behind-the-scenes look at how to orchestrate a seamless parasite protection plan, and some insights regarding the best way to communicate this information to your clients in a way that highlights the elements they value most.
Feel free to share this article on your social media channels if you found it to be a helpful resource, and who knows – maybe “TickTalk” will go viral! Though, in a blog talking about how to prevent tick-borne disease, “going viral” is probably the opposite of what we should be striving for…