But this (sometimes) warm, spring weather brings more than flowers and a healthy dose of Vitamin D—it also brings ticks. These blood thirsty parasites are hard to find, and can cause some serious health problems for our four legged friends. Ticks on pets can also transmit Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and a host of other diseases to humans. Can you say eeeewwwww.
For the most part, ticks can be found predominantly in wooded or brushy areas and in tall vegetation, and they thrive in long grass and shady outdoor spots. Sage bush doesn’t just smell lovely, it’s also a prime place for ticks to chill and wait for their next blood meal. However, ticks can also be found living in your lawn. To prevent this, be sure to mow regularly, remove tall weeds and keep garbage covered and inaccessible. If you're interested in what ticks are specifically found in this region, or another, check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention page on the Geographic Distribution of ticks.
So, now you know where ticks live, I bet you want to know how to avoid them. Talk to your vet about choosing the right, species-specific flea and tick treatment for your pet such as a topical, liquid insecticide applied to the back of the neck, or a tick collar. Some products are available over-the-counter while others require a prescription. However, never use products for dogs on cats, or for cats on dogs. If you accidentally apply the wrong topical treatment to your pet, please call your vet ASAP.
With or without tick protection, it’s a good idea to check your pet for ticks when you’ve been in areas where ticks are found. To search for ticks, run your hands all over the body, paying close attention to the ears, neck, chest, skin folds and other crevices. Closely examine any raised areas closely by parting the hair, making sure you are in a very well-lit area (you can even use a flashlight). If you feel a bump or swollen area, check to see if a tick has burrowed there. Depending on species and life stage, a tick may be as small as a pencil point or as large as a Lima bean (when engorged).
If you do find a tick while you’re checking your pet, it’s best to remove it right away. To remove an attached tick, check out this two-minute video from Drs. Foster and Smith.
Tick bites on dogs may be hard to detect. Signs of tickborne disease may not appear for seven to 21 days or longer after a tick bite, so watch your dog closely for changes in behavior or appetite if you have pulled a tick from your pet, or suspect that your pet has been bitten by a tick.
There are also ways you can avoid picking up ticks while with your canine companion. Wear protective clothing in a light color, and you can also wear a chemical repellent if you choose. It’s also a good idea to stay near the center of walking trails or tuck pant legs into socks. And always perform a skin check on yourself after being in areas where ticks are normally found. And, if you do find a tick on yourself, be sure to watch for symptoms of tickborne illness.
Do you do anything differently to prevent ticks on your animals?
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