What You Need to Know to Protect You and Your Dog from Ticks

Living in the 3rd worse county in the country for Lyme’s disease, ticks are a big concern for us in the spring and summer months.  Dogs are very susceptible to tick bites and tick-borne diseases. Vaccines are not available for all the tick-borne diseases that dogs can get, and they don’t keep the dogs from bringing ticks into your home.  And believe me, when you’ve seen someone suffer or yourself have suffered from something like Lyme’s disease or Rocky Mountain fever you know how serious it can be.

For these reasons, it’s important to use a tick preventive product on your dog.  But determining what to use and how to deal with it is not always easy.  So, we’ve done some research and compiled information from reliable sources like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), PetMD and others.

To reduce the chances that a tick will transmit disease to you or your pets:

    Type of Ticks
    Learn about ticks in your area.  Ticks are parasitic arthropods that feed on the blood of their hosts. They are attracted to warmth and motion, often seeking out mammals – including dogs. Ticks tend to hide out in tall grass or plants in wooded areas waiting for prospective hosts. Once a host is found, the tick climbs on and attaches its mouthparts into the skin, beginning the blood meal. Once locked in place, the tick will not detach until its meal is complete. It may continue to feed for several hours to days, depending on the type of tick. Most species of ticks go through four life stages – eggs, larvae, nymphs, and adults. All stages beyond eggs will attach to a host for a blood meal (and must do so on order to mature). Depending on species, the life span of a tick can be several months to years, and female adults can lay hundreds to thousands of eggs at a time. The following types of ticks are among the most common seen in North America: Deer tick, Brown dog tick Lone star tick and American dog tick.

      Understand the dangers ticks pose. Though they are known vectors of disease, not all ticks transmit disease – in fact, many ticks do not even carry diseases. However, the threat of disease is always present where ticks are concerned, and these risks should always be taken seriously. Most tick-borne diseases will take several hours to transmit to a host, so the sooner a tick is located and removed, the lower the risk of disease. The symptoms of most tick-borne diseases include fever and lethargy, though some can also cause weakness, lameness, joint swelling and/or anemia. Signs may take days, weeks or months to appear. Some ticks can cause a temporary condition called “tick paralysis,” which is manifested by a gradual onset of difficulty walking that may develop into paralysis. These signs typically begin to resolve after tick is removed. If you notice these or any other signs of illness in your dog, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible so that proper testing and necessary treatments can begin. The following are some of the most common tick-borne diseases: Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Anaplasmosis and Babesiosis

      Check your pets for ticks daily. After a romp outside in areas where ticks could be lurking, be sure to carefully check your dog for ticks. Look between the toes, inside the ears, between the legs (in the “armpits”), and around the neck, deep in the fur. If you find any ticks before they have had a chance to attach and become engorged, you may have prevented serious illness for your pet.

      Remove ticks right away. If you find a tick on your dog, removal should be done immediately and carefully, making sure to get all parts of the tick’s body removed from the skin. Tick bites on dogs may be hard to detect. Signs of tickborne disease may not appear for 7-21 days or longer after a tick bite, so watch your dog closely for changes in behavior or appetite if you suspect that your pet has been bitten by a tick.  or steps from ASPCA: http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/pet-care-tips/how-to-remove-a-tick-from-your-pet.aspx.

      Ask your veterinarian to conduct a tick check at each exam. And, talk to your veterinarian about tickborne diseases in your area.

      Reduce tick habitat in your yard. Keeping your lawn, bushes, and trees trimmed back will help reduce the population of fleas and ticks in your backyard. If there are fewer areas for these parasites to live and breed, there will be fewer of them to be concerned with. If you still have a problem, consider using one of the various household and yard sprays or granular treatments that are available from your veterinarian, pet store, or local garden center. Just be careful when using these products, as they can be harmful to animals, fish, and humans. If you have a severe problem or you are concerned about the proper handling of these chemicals, you might want to consider hiring an exterminator to apply yard and area sprays to control the ticks and fleas.

      Keep Dog(s) Indoors. While you do have to take your dog outside a few times a day, it is probably not a good idea to allow him to stay outside for extended periods during the height of tick season. Preventing your dog from roaming through wooded areas where ticks are likely to be lying in wait is a very effective way of keeping your pet safe from exposure, but you will still have to check your dog over thoroughly, even after short walks through grass and brush. You may still have a few ticks wandering around your yard, but if you keep things tidy and use preventives for when your dog does go out and check your dog over for any rogue ticks that might have attached themselves, your dog should have minimal risk of becoming a meal for ticks this summer.

        Use tick treatments or preventives on your pet. There are a wide variety of options to use both as preventatives or to kill ticks on dogs, including topical treatments, oral medication, powers, dips, shampoos, collars, powers and sprays.  There are some alternative natural options out there too.  Below provides more details on the options available and some of the pros and cons (source CDC).

          Kill Ticks on Dogs

          A pesticide product that kills ticks is known as an acaricide. Acaricides that can be used on dogs ,include dusts, impregnated collars, sprays, or topical treatments. Some acaricides kill the tick on contact. Others may be absorbed into the bloodstream of a dog and kill ticks that attach and feed.

          Pros: Helps reduce  ticks in the environment, Prevents tickborne disease

          Cons: Tick bites can cause a painful wound and may become infected. When bitten, a dog may become infected with a number of diseases. This depends on the type of tick, which diseases it is carrying (if any), and how quickly a product kills the feeding tick.

          Examples of topically applied products (active ingredients):

            • Fipronil
            • Pyrethroids (permethrin, etc.)
            • Amitraz

           Repel Ticks on Dogs

          A repellent product may prevent the tick from coming into contact with an animal at all or have anti-feeding effects once the tick comes into contact with the chemical, thus preventing a bite.

          Pros: Prevents bite wounds, possible resulting infections and tickborne disease

          Cons: Will not reduce the number of ticks in the environment (doesn’t kill ticks)

          Examples of topically applied products (active ingredients): 

            • Pyrethroids (permethrin, etc.)

          Have suggestions or comments? Share your story or what remedies have worked for you.

          March 04, 2015 by Jen Troxell
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