Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant, and author of "Brain Training for Dogs."
Little Laura Ingalls used to run happily through the tall grasses in the "Little House in the Prairie" along with her dog Jack, but what did they do about ticks? These blood-sucking creatures are vectors of various diseases and are certainly a nuisance that can ruin the best summer outings.
They can pop up when you least expect it, whether you are enjoying a picnic, playing with your kids in a park, or hiking a trail. They can ruin your bond with your dog (who likes to pet a dog with ticks on him on a daily basis?), the pleasure of camping, and the pure joy of running through tall grass.
Preventing tick-borne diseases can be an arduous task. It really comes down to the fact that ticks are hardy creatures that can live up to a year without feeding and hide in the most secretive places.
While most people may think a tick is an insect (six-legged creature), they are actually more closely related to scorpions and spiders and belong to the arachnid class (eight-legged creatures).
Avoiding them altogether can be a difficult task, but knowing them and the places they like to frequent may slightly reduce the chances of having one hop on you or your dog for a meal.
Where Do Ticks Thrive?
The best place for a tick is, of course, feeding on the warm blood of a mammal. They are pretty eager creatures that will feed steadily until they double or even triple their size. When not on a mammal, they will be found in tall grasses, bushes, trees, wooded areas, and even crevices of homes.
Ticks cannot fly or jump; rather, they patiently wait on grasses for a mammal to pass by and then let go and crawl onto the mammal's body as it brushes by.
While there are over 800 types of ticks in the wild, only a few are capable of causing tick-borne diseases. According to the CDC, the most common diseases transmitted by ticks are as follows:
- Lyme disease
- Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF)
- Southern tick-associated rash illness
- Tick-borne relapsing fever
How to Avoid Ticks
The best way to avoid tick-borne diseases is to avoid tick habitats and remove them as soon as possible. As mentioned previously, it is difficult to avoid ticks altogether, especially when heading outdoors. However, there are some precautions that may lower the chances of you or your dog becoming a host:
- As obvious as it sounds, avoid areas where ticks thrive.
- Be cautious during tick season (typically from spring to November).
- Wear white clothing so the dark color of a tick will be more visible.
- Wear your socks over your pants so it is harder for ticks to crawl up your pants.
- Tuck your shirt into your pants.
- Wear long pants and long sleeves.
- Use tick repellents.
- Check your body frequently for ticks and remove them promptly. Lyme disease is more likely when the tick has been attached for 24–48 hours.
- Put possible tick-infested clothing in the dryer for one hour prior to washing. Ticks have been found to survive on washed laundry.
- Adopt a Guinea Fowl hen. These birds are effective tick eaters.
- Put your pets on topical, veterinarian-approved tick repellents such as Frontline Plus and/or Preventic tick collar.
- Should you get bit by a tick, do not discard it; put it in a jar of rubbing alcohol labeled with the date just in case you experience any symptoms.
As seen, there are various ways to reduce ticks from your yard and lower the chances of disease. Should you get bit and develop symptoms, consult with your doctor immediately.
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Gypsy Willow from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand on June 27, 2009:
Thanks for researching that answer :)
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on June 26, 2009:
Very good question, of which I did not know the answer :) but according to
''Ticks, fleas, mosquitoes, and other biting insects are not known to carry or spread hantaviruses. In the U.S., cats and dogs are not known to be carriers of hantavirus. Guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, and other similar pets also are not known to carry hantaviruses.''
Happy I do not have to add another disease to the list of tick borne disease, I think we have enough! :)
Gypsy Willow from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand on June 26, 2009:
Useful advice thanks, can they transmit hanta virus if they have previosly been on mice?
How Widespread Are the Seresto Collar Problems?
The numbers in the EPA reports are startling, with Seresto collars seemingly related to the deaths of nearly 1,700 pets and injuries and illnesses in another 75,000. The number of actual incidents might be higher, noted one expert in the USA Today story, because it's unlikely everyone who experienced problems took the time and energy to report them to the EPA.
But how do the number of incidents compare to the number of Seresto collars, which are manufactured by Bayer and distributed by Elanco, out there? The flea and tick collars are the top sellers in their category on Amazon. The low-maintenance collars are also available at retailers like Wal-Mart.
Trepp is one of many vets who's recommended the Seresto collars to her patients. She told Daily Paws that she's "never" had any issues with them, and none of her veterinary colleagues have either. Tracey said something similar: Flea and tick collars "are generally regarded as safe preventatives for cats and dogs."
Trepp also pointed out the idea of correlation not equalling causation: Some pet owners might think the Seresto collar is to blame when the dog or cat may be suffering from an unrelated health problem.
It's one of the reasons Trepp hopes for a more thorough examination of the collars that does not rely on self-reporting pet parents.
"While the article itself doesn't have great statistical information, I do feel that maybe the safety studies should be looked at or perhaps some new safety studies should be done," she wrote in an email.
According to the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC), Lyme disease is on the rise with over 300,000 cases diagnosed every year. In order to keep pets safe and healthy, it is important that pet owners remain aware of the following tips and Lyme Disease safety precautions.
- Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi which is transferred to both humans and animals by ticks.
- Thoroughly checking pets for ticks daily can help reduce exposure to Lyme disease. Be aware that tick larva can be as small as a poppy seed.
- In some regions, ticks can be present year round. Pet owners should consult with their family veterinarian to see if year round flea and tick medication is right for their pets.
- Tick habitats can be limited by keeping shrubs and grass closely trimmed, as well as keeping yard debris to a minimum.
- Although Lyme disease can take up to 24-48 hours to infect the host, if a tick is found on a pet, the tick should be removed immediately. MedVet Veterinary Dermatologist, Dr. John Gordon, DACVD recommends the following tips for tick removal:
- When removing an attached tick, it is important to firmly grasp the tick by the head, avoiding their body. If the body is squeezed, its contents can be forced into the skin which may transmit disease.
- After firmly grasping the head, pull gently. The tick will usually be removed with a small amount of skin still in its mouth, confirming no part of their mouth or head has been left inside.
- Clean the area with soap and water. If the area becomes red and swollen for more than 24 hours, a follow up visit with a veterinarian is recommended.
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Advice for consumers
When applied properly to pets, flea and tick products can help protect both humans and animals from flea and ticks, but also prevent transmission of infectious diseases (like Lyme, Ehrlichia, etc.). Adverse reactions in dogs or cats resulting from misapplication can include skin effects such as irritation or redness gastrointestinal problems such as vomiting or diarrhea or more serious effects to the nervous system such as trembling, appearing depressed or seizures.
“The key to ensuring pets’ safety when using flea and tick products is to be vigilant about following the instructions on the package,” said Dr. Lynn Hovda, DVM, DACVIM, director of veterinary services for Pet Poison Helpline. “Knowing the exact size and weight of your pet and not assuming a product can be used for all types of animals is essential for using the correct medication and appropriate dose on your pet.
Dr. Hovda recommends the following tips to ensure correct use:
- Read and follow the directions on the product.
- Know the exact size and weight of your animal and use the correct dose amount. Don’t guess.
- Use a product for the animal in which the product was intended, i.e., do not use a dog product on a cat.
- Consult a veterinarian before using flea and tick products on weak, aged, sick, pregnant or nursing pets.
Always monitor your pets for signs of adverse reactions, especially when using products for the first time. When in doubt, consult a veterinarian, the manufacturer (most offer emergency medical information numbers on the label), or call the Pet Poison Helpline for treatment recommendations and general assistance.