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Roundtable addresses shortfall in parasite compliance
Fleas, mainly Ctenocephalides felis on both cats and dogs, are a familiar issue in veterinary practice, but the problem shows little sign of improving.
To address this, a roundtable event hosted by the Companion Animal veterinary publication, supported by Bayer, brought together animal health experts and charity representatives to discuss how best to assist vets in practice to ensure optimum efficiency in flea control.
Key topics discussed included basic flea biology; flea-borne diseases; control strategies and their efficacy; as well as compliance and client engagement. The group gave particular weighting to the issue of pet owner compliance in the application of preventative treatment products, as without clients’ adherence to regular preventative treatments flea prevalence in unlikely to decrease.
Jamie Crittall, BVSc MRCVS, specialist in Client Relationship Management, explained: “The fact that clients purchase and take away flea products does not necessarily mean that the product is taken out of a cupboard at home and used as the manufacturer intends. For this reason, the term adherence may be preferable to compliance, to indicate when the product is being used as directed.
“Educating the client is therefore fundamental to the success of any preventive healthcare strategy. As well as accepting, both rationally and emotionally, the value of the veterinary advice, clients must also be encouraged to adhere to those instructions throughout the year.”
Jamie Crittall went on to discuss research into compliance: “Research suggests that most veterinary practices fall far short of the goals they set on client compliance. Only 34% of pets are given a flea treatment and 41% wormed annually1.”
Another key topic raised was how to encourage clients to become aware of their pets health and how to better align companion animal parasites with human health issues.
Sophie Keyte, BVMS (Hons) MVetMed (Dist) DACVIM (SAIM) MRCVS, Small Animal Internal Medicine Clinical Teaching Fellow, University of Bristol, suggested that the most powerful trigger to encourage clients in addressing their pet’s health is always to relate it to human healthcare issues. Jamie Crittall agreed that this was an important approach and noted that it is unforgiveable that around 40 cases of partial blindness are recorded in children each year due to the effects of Toxocara spp. The more that practices get on board with the idea of promoting high quality animal health and demonstrating its benefits, the less likely it is that clients can claim the practice is acting to promote its own commercial interests.
The best way to ensure compliance with clients is to set up a flea control programme; this must be simple and easy for clients to complete.
Mark Craig, BVSc CertSAD MRCVS Re-Fur-All Referrals founder, said: “There are various factors to consider when instituting a flea control programme for animals with signs of flea allergic dermatitis (FAD). These include the number of other dogs and cats in the household: own­ers may not realise the importance of treating in-contact animals, believing that if an animal is not scratching it does not need flea treat­ment, and will insist that there are no fleas in the house because they themselves are not be­ing bitten. But the need to control exposure to fleas in both the internal and external environ­ment of the home must be addressed, and own­ers must show a willingness and ability to fol­low the treatment protocols.”
Getting clients to follow veterinary advice on flea control is the fundamental challenge for all practitioners in dealing with cases of flea allergy dermatitis and other flea-related conditions. However treatment options have developed to help make it easier veterinarians to encourage adherence in their clients.   
For example, Seresto® collars provide up-to 8 months of continuous flea and tick protection with a single application, meaning less treatments per year to adhere too. Broad-spectrum treatments, such as Advocate® spot-on, allow pets to be covered against a large number of parasites with a single treatment administered regularly, including fleas and the potentially-fatal lungworm parasite in dogs.

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