The days are getting shorter, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that your dog wants to hunker down for the rest of the year. Instead, there’s so much more to see, smell, and do outdoors than there was just a few weeks ago. Even though some parasites seem like they’re fading to the background, the scary truth is that ticks always abound. Maintaining monthly parasite prevention medication is a big part of their defense, but there’s more to protecting your pet from these bugs.
Year Round Protocol
Ticks lie in wait in areas of high grass, leaf litter, and dense tree cover. As bloodsucking ectoparasites, ticks pick up bacteria or other pathogens from their hosts. When they feed off another human or animal host, they pass along digestive fluids, anticoagulants, and infectious diseases.
Alabama is no stranger to Ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, anaplasmosis, and of course, Lyme Disease. Carried and transmitted by ticks, these disease can have disastrous consequences. Please watch your dog closely for the following symptoms:
- Swelling of the joints
- Limping and general discomfort while moving around
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Lack of appetite
Sometimes, symptoms are vague and hard to spot. Annual wellness exams can help us detect disease in your pet before the illness gets too difficult to treat. We can also discuss your dog’s relative risk of exposure to ticks, and administer the Lyme disease vaccine, if applicable.
The very best way to ensure that your per remains safe from the ills of vector-borne illness is to maintain their monthly topical or oral parasite prevention medication. While this can’t stop a tick from attaching itself to your dog, once they begin their blood meal, they’ll be killed.
Carefully inspect your pet’s skin and fur after they spend any time outdoors (including your very own backyard). Check out your clothing (especially socks and pant legs) before entering your house, bathe within 2 hours of returning home, and inspect your gear as well. Ticks attached to fabric can find your pet in a short period of time.
Keep your property as tidy as possible. Ticks can hitchhike on raccoons, rodents, possums, and deer. If these animals are attracted to compost piles, garbage bins, and ground cover, they will deposit parasites on your land.
An understanding of parasite prevention must also include removal and treatment. An engorged tick can swell to the size of a raisin, and must be removed promptly to reduce the chance of disease transmission. Wear gloves to protect yourself.
- Carefully using tweezers or small forceps, grasp (not squeeze) the tick as close to the host’s body as you can. You do not want to separate the body from the tick’s head; try to get a hold of the entire insect.
- Using a slow sideways motion, pull the tick out of the skin.
- Drop the removed tick into a sealed container with rubbing alcohol.
- Record the date on the container and where you removed it from.
- Disinfect the attachment site and apply a topical antibiotic ointment to prevent infection.
- Watch the site carefully for developing rash or inflammation.
The time between attachment and infection is relatively small. Always check your pet, and please contact us at Town and Country Animal Hospital if you have any questions or concerns.