Tick Prevention for Pets is a Must This Summer
With rising temperatures and increasing visits by vacationers to national parks this summer, now is the time to be extra-concerned about the risk of tick bites and Lyme disease as well as two less-common, but still serious infections from tick bites— anaplasmosis and human babesiosis. According to pet health expert Dr. Heidi Bassler in a recent article titled “Keeping ticks off your pets,” weather experts are predicting an especially ticky summer for a good part of America this year.
Dr. Heidi Bassler is a veterinarian who hosts a weekly radio show called “Your Pet’s Heath” and is also a monthly newspaper columnist for a pet advice column titled “Paw Prints” that brings practical and informative news and advice that is good not only for the health of a pet, but sometimes is also for the good of the health of the pet owner as well.
Case in point: This week Dr. Bassler discusses about what you can do to prevent ticks from entering your home through your pet by keeping your dog tick free.
Dr. Bassler begins by telling pet owners to try to avoid tick-infested areas such as wooded trails that are used by tick bearing wildlife such as rodents, chipmunks, raccoons, coyotes and white-tailed deer. If you take to the trails, stick to the ones that are well maintained and try not to brush up against any vegetation along the path as this is where ticks often lay in wait until a suitable host moseys by.
Closer to home, Dr. Bassler advises pet owners to be sure to keep the grass mowed and backyard brush trimmed down to prevent creating ideal environments for these pests. And just as you do a tick-check on your kids after an afternoon of play outside, be sure to do the same with your pet by running a fine-tooth comb through their fur to see if a tick is hitchhiking its way into your house.
And if you do find a tick (or two) on your pet, the steps to removing ticks are no different for pets than they are for humans as recommended by the American Lyme Disease Foundation:
Tick Removal the Correct Way
1. Using a pair of pointed precision tweezers, grasp the tick by the head or mouthparts right where they enter the skin. DO NOT grasp the tick by the body.
2. Without jerking, pull firmly and steadily directly outward. DO NOT twist the tick out or apply petroleum jelly, a hot match, alcohol or any other irritant to the tick in an attempt to get it to back out.
3. Place the tick in a vial or jar of alcohol to kill it (DO NOT kill it by squeezing it between your thumbnails—you could expose yourself to the bacterium by doing this).
4. Clean the bite wound with disinfectant.
5. Monitor the site of the bite for the appearance of a rash beginning 3 to 30 days after the bite. If you notice that your dog is running a fever, acting lethargic or depressed, limping or has a loss of appetite, a visit to your veterinarian would be a wise precaution to find out if that tick bite passed a disease onto your pet.
Although summertime is primetime for tick bites, Dr. Bassler tells us that year-round tick prevention is recommended and offers these 10 points to consider when deciding which type of anti-tick product to use to keep your pet tick-free this summer and for the rest of the year:
Tick Treatment Tips
1. Ticks are difficult critters to kill. No product is 100 percent effective. Expect to find occasional ticks on your pet regardless of what product you use.
2. Cats are not little dogs. Never use a product on cats that is labeled for dogs only. This can be deadly for Fluffy.
3. Typical over-the-counter tick collars are poorly effective. Choose something that has a better chance of keeping the nasty critters off your sweet pet.
4. Most topical tick products need to be applied monthly. However, not all will give you satisfactory performance throughout the month.
5. It’s unreasonable to expect a topical product to be unaffected by repeated swimming or bathing. Any topical product can have reduced effectiveness if Fido is bathed a lot or swims frequently.
6. Certain products are more likely than others to wash off. Your veterinarian can help you wade through this information.
7. Certain medicated shampoos can strip the coat of topical parasite prevention. Talk to your veterinarian before using shampoos.
8. Topical products need to be applied properly in order to maximize their effectiveness. Your veterinary team can teach you how to apply the product correctly for optimal tick prevention. If your pet is squirmy, ask your veterinary team for help. Most offices are happy to do this as a complimentary service every month.
9. If pesticides concern you, let your veterinarian know. Remember that ticks are difficult to kill, so options are limited. However, topical medicines (as opposed to pesticides) are available.
10. The goal is to keep your pet and family safe. Pets can bring ticks into the home, infecting two-legged family members.
Finally, when in doubt, go see your local veterinarian who will be well-aware of how to deal with tick diseases and tick prevention in your neck of the woods.