Protecting Your Pets and Family During a High-Risk Season
Can you use prevention products on your pets and still find ticks on your pet?
Prevention products offer an important defense against tick bites infecting your pets, but there’s still a chance that your favorite furry friend will pick up a tick. For pets in endemic areas, Dr. Sarah Timm, of the Roxbury (CT) Animal Clinic, suggests three layers of protection: Topicals with acaricides that can kill a tick. These include collars and once-a-month topical applicants. If ticks get pass this first layer of protection and bite the dog, it then comes in contact with the second layer of protection, the oral preventative that is circulating in the dog’s bloodstream. The tick will ingest these chemicals as it takes it blood meal and this usually kills the tick within a few hours of the bite. These products are typically given once a month. The third layer of protection is the Lyme vaccine. If your pet has received it, antibodies may bind to the bacteria to diminish the chance of infection. Be advised that the vaccine is considered 80 percent effective.
Besides the Lyme causative agent, there is increased risk of Ehrlichia infection in dogs, which can lead to a blood clotting disorder called thrombocytopenia. German shepherds and doberman pinschers seem to be more susceptible. One of the most important things you can do to prevent TBD is to groom your pet everyday. This gives you the opportunity to check in the places ticks are likely to hide, such as these five hiding places:
- Groin area, including your dog’s tail
- Between the toes
- In and around the ears
- Under clothes and collars
Don’t forget to check yourself and your family, especially after grooming your dog or after the dog has been outside. Vacuum carpets frequently and keep pets off furniture. Wash your pet’s bedding and jackets or blankets frequently. Consider creating a space in your yard that’s unfriendly to ticks. The University of Rhode Island's TickEncounter Resource Center has an interactive “tick habitat” backyard guide to help you make strategic landscape changes that will reduce tick numbers on your property. These recommendations will help keep your pets (and family) away from ticks, reducing the chances your favorite furry friend will pick up an eight-legged hitchhiker.
Watch your pet for signs and symptoms of infection. The American Veterinary Medical Association describes symptoms of Lyme disease, which may not appear until two to five months after infection: fever, loss of appetite, lameness, joint swelling, and decreased activity. Remember dogs do not have the bulls-eye rash from a tick bite. Call your veterinarian right away if you find an attached tick or notice any of these symptoms. Remember that pets should not be outside in hot sunshine for an extended time.
Some companies have apps that will remind you when to re-apply prevention products. Frontline offers a free download for your iPhone where you can also store health information and appointments with your veterinarian. These will help you keep track of when treatments are due so that your pet has continuous protection. Stay vigilant because a product’s effectiveness can vary, and check your pet regularly regardless of the product claims.
As always, talk to your veterinarian about what’s best for your dog.
Key Points for Keeping Your Pet Safe
- Do Daily Tick Checks, especially after they spend time outdoors
- If you find a tick on your dog, remove it using tweezers, don’t use heat or other folklore remedies
- Watch your dog closely for changes in behavior, appetite, if you suspect that your pet has been bitten by a tick
- Symptoms include fever, lack of appetite, lack of energy, uncharacteristic behavior, lameness, and joint swelling
- The characteristic rash that may appear on humans does not develop in dogs
- Talk to your veterinarian about tick-borne diseases in your area and other regions that you may travel with your pet
There are a number of labs that will test ticks removed from your pet. Check options and pricing at:
Interviews With our Experts
Lyme Connection Pet Editor Nancy Whyte-Olay spoke with Dr. Sarah Timm of the Roxbury Animal Clinic about tick-borne disease prevention for our favorite four-legged friends. Dr. Timm believes that tick-borne disease is 100 percent preventable, as long as there’s strict compliance with preventation products and yearly screening to ensure a negative Lyme status.
Read on for Nancy Whyte-Olay’s interview with Jordan Dann, D.V.M., the director of the Ridgefield Veterinary Hospital. Dr. Dann is now seeing a new strain of Ehrlichiosis called Ehrlichia canis. Dr. Jordan Dann, founded the Ridgefield Veterinary practice in 1956. He was a president of the Fairfield County Veterinary Medical Association and the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Association, where he also served as the Chairman of the Ethics Committee for 15 years.
Keeping you and your horse safe is critical to prevention of tick-borne diseases. Nancy Whyte-Olay interviews veterinarian Dr. Sarah L. Timm, who explains some of the signs and symptoms of tick-borne disease in horses. Dr. Timm, who grew up in Ridgefield, can be reached at the Roxbury Animal Clinic in Roxbury, CT.