ALL SMALL ANIMAL PRACTICES should appoint a “flea champion” to ensure that clients know how to use insecticide treatments to provide effective protection for their pets and family members, according to veterinary dermatologist Anthony Chadwick.
In a presentation in the nursing stream at the VetsSouth congress in Exeter in February, he said that despite the availability of a wide range of effective parasite treatments, flea bite allergies are still one of the commonest problems encountered in veterinary consultations.
“As I specialise in dermatology cases and my consultations take up to an hour, I have every opportunity to explain to clients how the different products work and why it is essential to maintain regular treatments. But colleagues working in a general practice have maybe only 10 minutes in which to deal with each case and so it’s not going to be their first priority.”
It is up to every member of staff to use opportunities for educating clients about the need for regular and appropriate treatment for fleas. Ideally, there should be one person, perhaps a senior nurse, given responsibility for co-ordinating these efforts and ensuring that clients are sent reminders when their pets’ preventive care appointments are overdue.
“If the nurse carries around a flea comb and uses it to check each animal as they come into the practice, I can guarantee that your sales of flea products will double in an instant,” he said.
The flea champion should have had the training needed to explain about the biology of fleas and all the other parasite species found in companion animals, he said. They should then be able to answer most of the questions raised by pet owners and clear up some of their misapprehensions.
“I am often told that some of the older licensed products are ineffective because resistance has built up against them. That is nonsense – the products still work. But if you are asking too much of a product in terms of speed of action or duration of effectiveness, then you will be disappointed.”
For patients that are particularly sensitive to flea bites, the practice should offer one of the new generation parasiticides like the isoxazolines, such as Bravecto, NexGard and Simparica. These will generally produce a more rapid kill, have a longer duration of activity and be effective against a broader range of parasite species, he said.
A survey by the Veterinary Dermatology Study Group showed that at least 20 products are commonly stocked by first opinion practices in the UK and so it would be unreasonable for nurses to try to remember all the details on the product data sheet for each one.
He recommended that a maximum of about five products should be stocked by each practice, which should give the right combination of active ingredients to deal with any parasite problem likely to emerge in its clients’ pets.
Nurses also need to be aware of other developments in the parasitology field, he said, particularly the growing threat posed by veterinary and zoonotic diseases spread by ticks.
These conditions have been reported with increased frequency in recent years, although it is not yet clear whether that is due to changes in the population of the tick vectors or simply greater awareness of the risk among animal owners and the healthcare professions.
Nurses should be aware of the possibility of exotic tick species arriving into the UK as a result of the government abandoning the requirement to give an acaricide treatment to animals entering the UK under the Pet Travel Scheme. He noted the recent reports of outbreaks of babesiosis in southern England as well as the dangers of Lyme disease for the health of people and animals.
Mr Chadwick also proposed that nurses should form the main defence against the potential threat posed by adverse reactions to parasiticidal treatment. Of course, the safety of new products is tested during the licensing process, but there is still the possibility that some animals may be unusually sensitive to the active ingredients. That appears to have been the case with the spot-on treatment Tiguvon, which has since been withdrawn from the market, he said.
He urged nurses to ensure they understand the process for notifying the VMD when there is evidence of adverse reactions: “You are likely to be the first to hear when something does go wrong and so the sooner you report a problem, the quicker it will be sorted out.”