The Trouble with Ticks, by Dr. Jeff Todd
Many of us really never think about ticks unless we see them attached to our wandering dogs or cats. If we’re not actively hiking in the woods ourselves, ticks really go into the “out of sight, out of mind” category.
But in the case of ticks, out of sight, out of mind is a dangerous strategy. You see, while a flea bite is a nuisance- and can create a seriously itchy spot if you’re allergic- ticks can, and do, transmit some serious diseases.
Did you know that North Carolina has one of the highest rates of infection for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in the entire United States— with most diagnosed infections occurring in children? At a recent conference I saw a veterinarian review the case of a 2-year old boy that died of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. The pediatrician misdiagnosed the rash, and didn’t start life saving treatment soon enough – a tick borne disease just wasn’t on anyone’s radar.
For many years, transmission of Lyme disease by ticks was thought to be problem only northerners had to worry about, but no longer – Lyme disease is now being diagnosed in humans in Western North Carolina. If you’d like to see detailed numbers of the prevalence tick borne disease in companion pets click here.
Why is it so important to control for ticks year round in our area?
- We have LOTS of ticks in our beautiful mountains. Large deer and coyote populations provide hosts to breed lots of ticks. Ticks generally use the “ambush” strategy to get on a host —- they climb onto vegetation and wait for passing hosts to brush against the vegetation. Once they feel the slightest vibration, they extend their forelegs and immediately release to crawl onto the host. You’re pet may bring that dangerous hitchhiker right into your house.
- Great weather. It only takes the slightest bit of warmth for ticks to wake up and try to find a meal. Ticks don’t think “hey, it may be 20 degrees tomorrow night”. Any bit of warm weather takes them out of their dormant state.
- Some stages of tick are really, really small. A couple months ago I told you about people who didn’t realize they’d been bitten by a bat…. Most people diagnosed with a tick disease don’t remember being bitten.
- Ticks are really disgusting. For guidelines on what to do about a tick attached to you or your pets, click here.
Here are this month’s recommendations:
- To reliably control fleas and ticks you must use a preventative on each and every pet in your home and yard each and every month.
- We recommend Frontline Plus because it controls for both fleas and ticks, in both dogs and cats.
- If you never want to have to detach a dead tick from your dog, we carry the latest generation of Frontline products – Frontline Tritak. This is product has the fastest kill time of any generation of Frontline products. It’s generally going to kill ticks before they attach.
- For those of you who are fans of Comfortis, be aware that it does not have a claim for killing ticks. We have Preventic collars at the office for those pets on Comfortis for flea control.
- When you go hiking with your pets – wear light colored pants so that you can see ticks easily, tuck in your pant legs, stay in the middle of the trail, and give yourself a good tick check when you get home.