5 Ways to Prevent Tick Borne Disease in Pets
Ticks are an unsightly nuisance to pets, that are also capable of transmitting some deadly diseases to both pets and people. Ticks are arachnids, similar to spiders and mites. Ticks are parasites that feed on the blood of a host. Ticks that embed in a pet’s skin can transmit a variety of serious and even life threatening infectious diseases including:
- Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
- Lyme Disease
- Cytauxzoonosis (cats)
Many of these infectious diseases can cause problems in pets including anemia, low platelets, blood clotting disorders, immune mediated disease, joint disease, fever, jaundice, heart or lung disease, tick paralysis, and death.
Here are 5 ways to prevent Tick Borne Diseases in Pets:
1. Know the symptoms of Tick Borne Disease
Luckily the majority of pets exposed to ticks never develop a tick-borne disease. But for those who do, early recognition of symptoms, quickly arriving at a diagnosis, and prompt treatment by a veterinarian helps the likelihood of a good prognosis. If your pet has tick exposure, talk with us or your regular veterinarian about what symptoms you should be on the look out for. Some general symptoms of tick borne diseases include lethargy, fever, poor appetite, excessive bruising or prolonged bleeding, lameness, jaundice, coughing, and exercise intolerance.
2. Tick Prevention
Prevention is the golden rule when it comes to keeping your dog free from tick-borne diseases. Ticks are a problem all year in Texas. Ticks prefer areas with dense vegetation. Much of their time is spent on the ground, but they crawl up to the tips of shrubs and grasses. This improves their ability to leap onto an animal passing by. It is best to avoid exposing your dog to such shrubby and grassy areas for extended periods of time.
Use tick prevention products
There are a variety of products on the market that prevent and/or kill ticks. It is important for you to talk with us or your regular veterinarian about the best tick prevention product for your pet’s lifestyle. Bravecto is an effective oral flea and tick prevention product for dogs that is given by mouth once every 3 months.
Other tick-prevention options include monthly medication applied topically (to the skin). There are a variety of products to choose from and most are combined with flea prevention medication. Advantix in one example of a topical flea and tick monthly prevention product.
Some tick collars work well, but are not a good choice for dogs who do a lot of swimming or those who play with other dogs (chemicals within the collar might be ingested by your dog’s playmate). One example of an effective tick collar is Seresto. Some over the counter flea and tick products can cause skin rashes or harmful effects to pets so it is very important to talk with a veterinarian about the best product for your pet. Never use a product made for dogs on cats. At Spring Branch Veterinary Hospital our yearly wellness bloodwork often involves testing for common tick borne infections.
3. Check Your Dog Daily for Ticks
Perform a “tick check” on your pet daily, particularly following outdoor excursions. Getting rid of ticks before they’ve had a chance to embed greatly reduces the possibility of disease transmission. Ticks can often be in hard to see places like in or around ears, around the head, between toes, and other less obvious places.
4. Save Ticks if You Remove Them
Saving the ticks you remove just might prove to be useful. Different species of ticks transmit different diseases. Given that symptoms of the various tick-borne diseases overlap, having knowledge of the type of tick your dog was exposed to may be helpful. We recommend dunking and storing the ticks in a disposable container filled with isopropyl alcohol. Show them to us or your regular veterinarian should your pet become sick.
5. Remove embedded ticks promptly and properly
It is important to remove any embedded ticks as soon as possible. Less time spent attached to your dog lessens the odds of disease transmission. It is important to wear gloves when touching ticks or removing ticks. Ticks can also transmit diseases to people.
You’ll find dozens of recommendations online describing how to remove an embedded tick. Be wary of what you read. Many methods are harmful or not effective. Do not burn ticks off your pet!! Burning a tick with a hot match is not effective, and you risk singeing your dog’s fur or hurting them. Coating the tick with Vaseline or some other type of lubricant does not work well. And acetone, such as the chemical found in nail polish removers, causes the tick to become brittle and more likely to break during the removal process. The best method for ticks that are not severely embedded is using a pair of tweezers and grasping the tick including the head as close to the pet’s skin as possible. Pull the tick out straight (perpendicular) from the pet’s skin and not at an angle. If the tick is severely embedded, difficult to remove, or if the head breaks off, it is best to have a veterinarian remove it. If there is a severe tick infestation it is best to have a veterinarian remove them as well. Wash the skin well after removing the tick. Monitor the skin for 1-2 weeks for any swelling or redness. Talk with us or your veterinarian about preferred methods for removing embedded ticks. Whichever method you choose, be sure to wear gloves so as to eliminate any risk of disease transmission for yourself. If you would like to discuss preventing ticks in your pets or tick borne disease, please call us at 830-438-7800.
Megan Hughes, DVM
Spring Branch Veterinary Hospital