Summer season means Ticks too! Here’s how keep your dog SAFE!
Yes, ticks give most people the willies – they are a member of the spider family (arachnids not insects). Ticks are parasites that feed on the blood of mammals and unfortunately can also transmit diseases to our dogs and us. Lyme disease is typically the most common tick-borne disease people worry about.
Importantly, the type of tick matters! Only certain species of ticks can transmit specific bacteria and viruses. Borrelia burgdorferi (the cause of Lyme disease) is a bacterium only transmitted by Ixodes ticks. Because of this, veterinarians and physicians are always interested in the species of tick that caused the bite.
Ticks have 4 life-stages: egg, larva, nymph and adult. This life cycle takes two years to complete and each life stage occurs on a DIFFERENT animal (or “host”). This makes tick prevention so much more challenging than flea prevention!
· Eggs are laid on the ground by adult ticks, the eggs hatch into larvae
· Larvae feed on rodents and birds through the summer and fall, then drop off into the environment & hibernate until spring
· Nymphs become active in the spring, feeding on rodents and birds and then “molt” into adult ticks in the fall
· Ticks become infected with the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi during the larvae and nymph stages (from feeding on infected rodents).
· Adults feed on larger mammals such as deer, dogs and people.
Unfortunately, the tick population appears to be spreading outside of their previous normal ranges, this has a lot to do with the exploding deer population. So now ticks are commonly found in many parts of the United States and Canada where only a few years ago they were rarely found.
How do ticks transmit disease?
Ticks transmit bacteria and viruses during feeding. After they attach to an animal or person they feed and pass the bacteria into their host’s bloodstream. Importantly, this is a slow process often requiring 24-48 hours for the tick to pass to the animal.
How do I protect my dog? Follow these 3 tips.
1. Reduce tick exposure
a. Keep the grass on your property cut and remove piles of branches and leaves to make your yard less tick-friendly.
b. Avoid letting your dog roam off-leash in woodlands where deer and ticks are present.
2. Daily tick checks along with prompt removal of any ticks
a. Get into the habit of regularly checking your dog (and yourself!) for ticks.
3. Use tick preventative medications!
a. A variety of tick preventatives are available in both oral and topical forms; in addition Seresto® (Bayer) is an effective flea and tick collar. In general, consider an oral preventative if your dog is bathed frequently or swims.
b. Tick prevention medications work by killing ticks that have attached to a pet and started feeding. These medications can kill ticks within a short period of time, so the ticks die and drop off before they are able to transit infection (Remember it takes 24-48 hours of feeding before the tick can transmit infection).
How to perform a proper tick check
1. Run your fingers slowly over your dog's entire body. If you feel a bump or swollen area, check to see if a tick has burrowed there. Don't forget to check between the toes, under the armpits, the insides of the ears, and around the face and chin.
2. Remember to check yourself too! While dogs can't directly transmit tick-borne illnesses to people, the ticks can move from host to host. A tick may enter your home on your dog's back and move on to another pet or human, or a tick could hitch a ride on you and then move on to one of your pets.
3. A good tick prevention strategy includes checking all family members for these parasites, especially after outdoor activities in wooded, leafy, or grassy areas.
If you find a tick- don't panic! How to remove a tick properly!
Step 1: Get your gear
Pair of gloves
Clean pair of tweezers or a commercial tick remover
Soap and water or hand sanitizer
Step 2: Remove the tick
Wear gloves while removing the tick to avoid contact with your skin (ticks can transmit diseases to people, too).
If you're using tweezers:
· Use fine-tipped tweezers to firmly grasp the tick very close to the skin. With a steady motion, pull the tick away from the skin. Then clean your dog’s skin with soap and warm water.
· Avoid crushing the tick’s body.
· Do not be alarmed if the tick’s mouthparts remain in the skin. Once the mouthparts are removed from the rest of the tick, it can no longer transmit Lyme disease bacteria.
Step 3: Store the evidence
Drop the tick into a small container that contains isopropyl alcohol (the alcohol will quickly kill the tick), and mark the date on the container. If your dog begins displaying symptoms of a tick-borne illness, your veterinarian may want to identify the tick.
Step 4: Clean the skin and praise your patient
Clean your dog's skin with soap and water or a hand sanitizer; make sure to also clean your tweezers or tick remover with isopropyl alcohol. Then give your pup a treat for being a trooper in the fight against ticks.
Keep an eye on the area where the tick was to see if an infection surfaces. If the skin remains irritated or infected, make an appointment with your veterinarian.
Watch your dog for symptoms of tick-borne diseases. Some symptoms include arthritis or lameness that lasts for three to four days, reluctance to move, swollen joints, fever, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, loss of appetite, and neurological problems.