With Dr. Deanna Tolliver, M.S., DVM
It’s spring! And that means being outside, hiking, picnics, and … TICKS!
It’s a fact: There are more ticks now than there used to be. Why? (1) Their host populations (deer and mice) are rising; (2) warmer temperatures, due to climate change, are increasing tick habitat; and (3) an increase in suburban areas puts humans and dogs living closer to wildlife.
Who knows how many wild animals carry ticks? But I can tell you that in my vet practice I once treated a dog that had 500 on its body!
Ticks can carry the bad bacteria that cause Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Ehrlichia, to name a few. So if you find a tick on your dog (or cat), it’s important to remove it quickly. Estimates vary but in most cases, a tick can be attached for only 24-48 hours to transmit disease.
TO SAFELY REMOVE A TICK, you will need a Tick Twister and an antiseptic solution.
—Slide the two prongs of the Tick Twister around the tick, and move it as far up as you can.
–Give the Tick Twister a few turns.
—Gently pull the tick straight out.
—Clean the area with antiseptic (such as hydrogen peroxide).
—Put the tick in a sealable bag so you can try to identify it. Click here for a tick identification guide.
Click here for a video explaining how to find and remove ticks from your pet.
TIPS TO AVOID TICKS:
—Wear the right clothing when you’re in tick country: light colors, long sleeves (shirt tucked in), long pants (tucked into your socks).
—Use insect repellent on yourself (see what to do for dogs below). DEET is an effective tick repellent for you (follow all instructions), but it is NOT approved for pets. Chemical-free products are also available. (Click here).
—Avoid high vegetation areas when you’re walking with your dog.
—After being outside, inspect yourself and your dog for ticks. Some may be hidden in your dog’s hair initially, and you may not see them for several hours. Especially check a dog’s ears (inside and outside), belly, under the legs, under the tail around the anus. In other words, body areas with less hair that ticks may seek out.
There are many effective, safe and easy-to-use products on the market today. But keep in mind that tick (and flea) products have exploded into a multi-billion dollar market. Many unethical businesses want a piece of that action and may try to sell you unsafe or unregulated products.
As a veterinarian, I recommend that you purchase tick prevention at an animal hospital because:
(1) The employees are trained to know which products are appropriate for your pet (do NOT put a dog product on a cat) and that may not be true at a pet store or a big box store.
(2) If your pet reacts to the product, the hospital will know how to deal with it.
(3) If you are unhappy with the product, most companies will give you a refund if it is documented as being sold at an animal hospital (that may not happen if you buy online).
So which product is best? That depends … Do you want a topical, an oral or a collar? Dog or cat? What age is your pet? Do you want just tick prevention or one of the multi-purpose products that also prevent heartworms and fleas? (These require a prescription).
Because cats are self-groomers, they are much better at removing ticks themselves than dogs. But you must be VERY careful that you don’t apply a topical product to your cat if it is labeled only for dogs.
And I do not recommend flea and tick collars for any pet. Every time you touch your pet wearing one of these chemical necklaces you’re getting some of that chemical on your hands. So are your grandkids. The new generation of topical and oral preventions are much safer.
Choosing a tick prevention product today is actually more difficult than it was when all we had were smelly collars and Frontline, because now there are so many to choose from. That’s why I strongly recommend that you consult your veterinarian before making that decision.
Please feel free to email me with questions you may have regarding your own pet and tick prevention.