Parasites, Volume 2: Preventing Tick-Born Diseases in Pets
Ticks are common blood-sucking parasites that can be found anywhere, from the deep woods to urban parks. Each year, thousands of pets become infected with serious diseases transmitted by a number of different ticks. These diseases may include Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and others.
Unlike fleas, ticks cannot jump on your pet. Instead, they are attracted by warmth and movement, and will often wait on tall grasses or brush for a mammal to walk by for them to climb onto. Once they do, they will find a protected place to feed, usually with less hair. These areas include between the toes, around the head and neck, inside the ears and in the arm pits. The tick will then engorge itself with your pet's blood before falling off.
Not all ticks carry infectious diseases, but if they do, the longer the tick remains attached to your pet, the greater the chance for transmission. Therefore, it's important to check your pets for ticks daily, especially after they spend time outdoors.
Tick bites on pets may be hard to detect. Signs of tickborne disease may not appear for 7-21 days or longer after a tick bite, so watch your pet closely for changes in behavior or appetite if you suspect that your pet has been bitten by a tick.
Dogs are very susceptible to tick bites and tickborne diseases. Cats don't get bothered by ticks quite as much, but may still be hosts. Be sure to consult your vet and get a cat-specific treatment as they are sensitive to many chemicals commonly used in repellents.
A natural product that we like for both cats and dogs is our Pet Naturals Flea and Tick Repellent Spray. This spray contains natural oils utilized by natives in the Amazon region that would change their scent to be unappealing to biting insects. Simply spritz your pet before outdoor adventures. There are no known side effects to pets when they groom themselves after application.
For a longer lasting preventative, try our Sentry Natural Defense 3-Month Flea/Tick Squeeze-On Treatment for Dogs. This synergistic blend of plant oils is safe to use around people, pets, and the environment! This product even works on mosquitoes to prevent heartworm infestation! This product is only safe for use on dogs. Do not use on cats.
As good as these products may be, it's still a good idea to do regular checks on your pets after time spent outdoors. Also, keeping grasses mowed and shrubs tidy will help keep ticks from crawling on your pet. There are also yard treatments to kill fleas and ticks.
Should you find a tick on your pet, it's best to wear latex gloves and grasp the tick with tweezers or forceps near the head of the tick. Gently but steadily pull out the tick away from the skin, taking care that it comes off in one piece.
Once removed, place the tick in a container of alcohol to kill it rather than smashing it, which could release germs. It is not unusual to see a minor swelling of your pet's skin where the tick was attached for a few days after removal. However, if you are concerned that the tick's mouth parts were not completely removed, consult your veterinarian.
Pets that have been bitten by ticks need to be monitored for signs and symptoms of lethargy, changes in appetite and joint problems.
How do I keep my house tick free?
Since pets can bring ticks inside with them, it's important to keep your house inhospitable to bugs to prevent ticks from biting human family members as well. To reduce this risk, wash your dog’s bed frequently, vacuum carpets at least once a week and check all household members for ticks, even if they don't venture outside. The same tick can bite multiple hosts and spread disease to everyone.
This is why tick prevention and treatment is important for pets as it is also helpful in lowering the risk for all other family members.