ticks on pets

The season of the outdoors is officially here. If your dog likes to spend time outside with you, you may be thinking of backyard romps, hiking together, and even traveling to enjoy some serious outdoor adventures together.

When it comes to spending time outside, ticks are always a concern, especially in grassy or forested areas. What can you do to prevent ticks and the diseases they can spread to pets and people? Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital explores.  

Ticks 101

The tick is not an insect, but an arachnid closely related to a spider. Ticks can and do survive in every state in the US, and species migration is ever expanding. They are most active in spring and fall, but survive all year round in dark, moist, leafy places in which they lay their eggs. Ticks tend to climb up on grasses and shrubs and extend their forelegs, waiting for an unsuspecting host. This behavior is known as “questing” and is part of what makes ticks so successful as a species.

While the bite of this ectoparasite can be painful, the true danger lies in the tick borne diseases they carry and transmit. Diseases such as Lyme disease, Ehrlichia, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Anaplasmosis are all transmitted by the bite of a tick. These diseases can cause serious complications in pets and people, and are often difficult to diagnose.

Tick Borne Diseases

Tick borne diseases are difficult to diagnose largely because:

  • Signs closely mimic the symptoms of other diseases
  • Symptoms often seem to resolve, and then reappear weeks or months later
  • Many signs do not initially appear until months or even years after a tick bite

Luckily, our in house laboratory is well equipped to test your dog for tick borne diseases. We recommend annual preventive screening depending on your dog’s lifestyle and other factors. It’s also important that we see your dog annually for a wellness exam, and that you carefully watch for signs related to tick borne disease, such as:

  • Swollen joints and/or joint pain (may be intermittent)
  • Fatigue
  • Inappetance
  • Stiffness
  • Lameness
  • Fever

If you see any of these signs, contact us right away for an appointment.

Tick Prevention

The old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is surely apropo in the case of ticks and tick borne disease. There are many safe and effective tick preventative medications. Some are topical and others are oral. Talk to us about which is right for your pet.

In addition to a monthly preventive, here are some other methods of tick prevention that are recommended.

  • Keep your yard clear from brush, leaf piles, and other yard debris that attracts ticks
  • Fence your yard to prevent wildlife and discourage tick infestation
  • Wear light colored clothing yourself, and tuck pant legs into socks when out in the woods
  • Do a daily tick check whenever your dog comes inside from the outdoors
  • Learn how to remove a tick, and do so promptly

Finding ticks early is important, since many diseases cannot be transmitted until the tick has been attached to your dog for a specific period of time. Ask us how to remove ticks safely or purchase a tick removal tool. Never use a burning match or other such methods touted on the internet. Many are simply unsafe!

Whether you need a lesson in safe tick removal, a wellness exam to update your pet’s monthly tick preventive, or tick disease testing for your pet, please contact your team at Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital for assistance. We are here for you and your pet!