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Ticks: Prehistoric Fortress & Disease Transmitting Machine – Dr. LeeAnn DuMars, ABVP


Tick populations are spreading across the country and this year we had reports of ticks in the mountains during snowfall – so they are becoming more resilient and tenacious! Ticks are skin parasites that feed on the blood of their hosts. Each adult female tick can lay 3,000 eggs after taking blood meals over several days. The nymph stage remains inactive in the fall and winter and when warmer weather arrives, they search for a host.

The three methods to control ticks include: environmental control, preventing ticks from attaching, and finding and removing ticks. Treating the yard and kennel areas with a product containing fenvalerate frequently during summer months can be helpful. Fenvalerate is not harmful to the environment. Ticks hide in shaded areas and leafy debris; under and in bushes and cooler areas. Indoor control by professional exterminators can minimize ticks which like to crawl and hide in cracks and crevices around windows and doors.

Prevent ticks from attaching using topical products such as Activyl Plus, K-9 Advantix, Certifect or Frontline Plus. BE AWARE that many of these topical products are “dogs only” and can be harmful or even fatal to cats that may ingest permethrins from grooming or licking a dog. The older “Preventic” collars helped repel ticks for 3 months and have been used by many owners when they take dogs camping or hiking in the mountains. A new Bayer product, “Seresto”, was launched this year. It is a collar that comes in both dog and cat sizes and will repel and kill fleas and ticks for an entire 8 months! We are very excited to have a product which will actually repel ticks and prevent attachment.

Find and remove any ticks on your pet – carefully check for ticks every time they return from an area inhabited by ticks (brush, weeds, trees, mountains, river bottoms). Ticks most frequently attach around the pet’s ears, head, neck, between toes, and armpit areas. Safely remove ticks with tweezers (not your fingers as “popping” a tick can cause blood to be released and infect humans with disease) and kill with rubbing alcohol. Gently pull at the base where the tick’s head is attached to remove the mouth parts which are firmly “cemented” to the pet’s skin. A tick will not burrow under the skin. Do not use a cigarette or try to burn the tick to “make it back out.” There will be a red area of inflammation where the tick was attached and possibly a bump, scab or crusted area. Clean the site gently and discourage excessive scratching of the area. Luckily, it takes several hours to 48 hours for tick attachment to spread disease, so promptly removing ticks will likely be more of a nuisance than a source of infection.

For more information, some excellent resources are available to us. The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) is a nonprofit, charitable organization that helps provide accurate, objective, and science-driven information that will help veterinarians and physicians control important parasite diseases that affect both people and pets. The CAPC website for clients is www.petsandparasites.org/ and discusses parasites and control and provides guidelines for pets. The US Center for Disease Control website, www.cdc.gov/features/stopticks/, emphasizes tick-borne diseases of people and the importance of tick control on pets.

In summary, tick and flea populations are increasing, as are the infectious diseases that may spread to both people and pets. Multiple methods of control, proper use of today’s excellent parasiticide products, and year-round diligence will keep these pesky parasites under control. We have multiple options and formulations to fit into everyone’s budget and applicaton preferences for flea, tick and heartworm control. Remember to manage environmental control and minimize cats from outdoor wandering and limiting exposure to wildlife. We are fortunate to have so many wonderful products in our toolbox to manage parasite prevention! Please speak with the veterinarians and staff at Pet Medical Center about the different options and then be sure and follow through with year-round parasite protection.