Protecting Pets from Ticks

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Abnormally high temperatures this May have caused a significant uptick in Wisconsin's deer tick population. Indomitable pests, deer ticks can be found in any area with moist, dense shrubbery or tall grass, and are transporters of the notorious Lyme disease.

UW Arboretum

Looking out across the Curtis Prairie at the UW Arboretum

Public Health Madison and Dane County released a statement that warned of the population boom, explaining that there has been a significant increase in the cases of Lyme disease over the past few years.

While humans can minimize the chance of being bitten by simply avoiding threatening areas, our beloved pets lack the cognitive ability to do so, making them susceptible to an unfortunate encounter. If a tick is able to stealthy attach itself to a dog or cat, there is a high chance that Lyme disease will be transmitted, and with it many degenerating symptoms, such as fever, swelling of joints, lameness and in severe cases death.

Fortunately, there are many precautions concerned pet owners can take to minimize the risk of transmission. Keeping pets on leashes while walking through wooded areas is the easiest way to prevent a tick bite. Dogs that runoff on their own will rummage around the shady places ticks love to hide, but when restrained they are limited to pursue less perilous trails.

The amount of ticks that are present in yards can be reduced by keeping the grass well kept. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), ticks avoid areas with short grass and prolonged sunlight exposure. Subsequently, tick populations can be further tamed by removing yard debris (places to hide) and cutting down shady, overgrown hedges.

Checking pets daily during tick season is the only way to guarantee that they are tick-free. Lyme Disease takes a few days to transmit after a bite occurs, so thorough daily checks can prevent the disease from spreading.

If a tick is found the CDC recommends that pet owners carefully remove the tick with fine-tipped tweezers, grasping it as close to the skin’s surface as possible. Once the tick is firmly gripped it is imperative that a steady even pressure is applied as it is removed. Any twisting or jerking can cause pieces of the ticks’ mouth to fall off under the skin allowing the disease to be transmitted. After successfully removing the tick, disinfect the bite area with rubbing alcohol to kill off any lingering germs and to reduce the risk of infection.

There are a variety to products consumers can purchase to stop ticks from biting in the first place. Frontline Plus Topical Flea and Tick Treatment are two popular products designed to be applied once a month. For extra protection, pet owners could consider purchasing tick repellent collars.

Owners who are hesitant to apply chemicals to the skin of their pets can make their own herbal remedies. According to Justin Michaels, a blogger for WTAQ.com, a simple repellant can be made by combining one cup of water with two cups of distilled white vinegar.  The smell of vinegar is repugnant to ticks. For added measure, including two spoonfuls of vegetable oil (contains sulfur) will keep ticks far away from pets. However, this herbal remedy does not kill ticks, unlike its chemical counterpart.

Ticks and Lyme disease present a threat to pets throughout the summer, but with proper care and preventative measures these dangers can be diminished.

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