Your dog’s health (and your own) may well depend on your vigilance against tiny insects which increasingly pose a danger to both you and your pets. For many areas this year is going to be a particularly bad one for ticks. You can find out the risk to ticks in your area with this interactive map.
Ticks are parasites (means they live on the blood of their hosts) which often means dogs, cats, and humans. They are attracted to warmth from tall grass, plants and wooded areas and latch on to their victims by sinking their mouthparts into the skin. After they’ve latched on they don’t release until they have had their fill of blood – up to several days.
Ticks might be just an upsetting annoyance were it not for the fact that they carry a number of diseases that have significant health impacts on their pet and people hosts. Most notably they carry Lyme Disease which can cause major illnesses for both pets and humans, but they also carry Ehrlichiosis, Bartonella, Babesiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. In other words, you don’t want ticks anywhere near you or your pets.
Manage your exposure
You can reduce your pet’s risk of tick bites by tick proofing your yard. Keep your lawn moved and set up a barrier of wood chips between your lawn and any wooded areas. Ticks are carried by mice and rodents so remove any likely nesting areas.
You can reduce your pet’s chances of a tick bit by keeping out of wooded areas, and away from tall grass. Keep your pet to the center of paths and consider walks in parks or on athletic fields. A sure way to avoid ticks especially for older and disabled dogs is by using a pet stroller which protects your pet for direct contact with tick infested grasses and weeds.
Spring through Fall is the prime season for ticks. There are a variety of methods you can use to help your dog repel ticks.
There are oral medications administered monthly kill ticks and fleas and upset their life cycle. These are available at any pet store or online. Tick collars help repel ticks but do not protect the entire body, and some dogs are allergic to the active ingredients. Finally, there are topical medications which you place on your dog’s skin to provide effective protection for up to a month for both fleas and ticks. They are available from pet stores and online. With ticks an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
No preventive treatment is 100% effective, so it is important to check your pet after every walk. Ticks are generally large enough to be visible so going over your dog nose to tail carefully will find any ticks. Feel carefully for any bumps as these may be ticks.
The American Kennel Club notes 5 areas often overlooked: ears, between toes, under the tail, under the collar and in the genital region. If you’re in doubt, a flea and tick shampoo can kill ticks on contact and help provide coverage for several weeks.
Be prepared! Make up a tick removal kit including: alcohol, rubber gloves, a tube of antibiotic ointment, and tweezers or a tick removal tool available from any pet store.
With your gloves on locate the tick and seize it with the tool or tweezers as near to the skin as possible.
Using a single motion pull the tick straight upward with steady pressure so that the entire tick is removed, and nothing is left in your dog’s skin. If you have a tick removal tool put the forks under the bug and turn clockwise several times.
Put the tick in a plastic bag and seal it. If your dog becomes ill, has difficulty walking, isn’t drinking or eating normally, or seems lethargic, see your vet and bring the tick with you.
Apply the antiseptic ointment to the bite area and wash your hands and tools.
Keep your dog safe and healthy with prevention, observation and quick action.