The first tick season of the year is about to begin. Hungry deer tick nymphs emerge in the Spring after lying dormant throughout the winter making it the most likely period when Lyme Disease is transmitted to animals and humans.
Deer ticks hatch from their eggs in the previous late summer/early fall. While in the larval stage period, they contract the Lyme bacteria from feeding on white footed mice, not deer, as most people believe. These ticks are small, generally no larger than the lead on a pencil head.
Here are some precautions you can take:
Make it a practice to check yourself and your pet for ticks after walking in the woods or fields. Ticks start low and crawl up. Look for ticks around waistbands, the back of the knee, armpits, and other constricted areas. They do not wash off in the shower.
Check your dog or cat when they come into the house. Feel for small bumps in your pet’s fur. Ticks are round with a hard exterior. Look for ticks between the toes, inside the ears, in the armpits, and the neck of your dog or cat.
Remove ticks immediately. You can bring your dog or cat to us at Hometown Vet and we’ll remove it, or you can use a tick hook to remove it yourself. Make sure no mouth parts remain in your pet’s skin and dispose of the tick in sticky tape and put in an outside trash bin. Be sure to wash your hands after handling.
If you have a tick, remove it with a pair of tweezers. Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. Don’t twist or jerk the tick because this can cause the mouth parts to be left in the skin. Clean the bite area with alcohol or iodine. Dispose of the tick in sticky tape. Never crush it with your fingers. Wash your hands with soap and water.
Watch for symptoms of Lyme Disease. Lyme bacteria may not exhibit symptoms in your dog or cat for two to five months. Should you notice any lethargy, joint swelling, fever or loss of appetite/weight loss in your pet give us a call. In some cases, a change in your dog’s bark is also an indication and you should call us immediately.
Get vaccinated. If your dog is likely to encounter ticks in their day to day activities, we recommend a preventive Lyme Disease vaccine. Nothing is 100% effective, but immunization followed up by a booster shot 2-4 weeks later will provide maximum protection for your dog. The vaccine contains either killed Lyme disease-causing bacteria or man-made recombinant bacterial proteins.
Since cats are not likely to succumb to Lyme Disease there is no vaccine at this moment.
A flea and tick medication should be used when your pet goes outdoors. For cats, we recommend a topical (Bravecto) and for dogs, either an oral (Bravecto or Credelio) or topical (Vectra).
Protect yourself, protect your pets and protect your yard. We’ve talked about how you can protect yourself and your pets. Here are some ways to protect your yard:
- Deer ticks live on the border of wooded areas, plantings and gardens - generally shaded areas with high humidity. You can keep these areas trimmed and raked of leave.
- Generally, ticks are infected with Lyme bacteria when, as larvae, they feed on white footed mice. Mice like to nest in stonewalls, woodpiles and sheds. Do your best to keep stonewalls clear of leaves and keep woodpiles out of the way.
- Deer are the transportation of choice for ticks. If deer are nearby, you should consider fencing, deer repellants and plants that deer will find undesirable. Also protect your birdfeeders from deer and rodents too.
- Eco-friendly spray treatments may be appropriate for your yard perimeter but we recommend you research carefully.
Spring is here. It’s a great time of year, but it’s also the first full season for ticks to make their appearance. We trust this information will keep you, your family, and your pets safe this year!