Ticks and pets don't mix when it comes to keeping your pet safe outdoorsSpring means the emergence of tiny, crawling critters. Just like pets and people, ticks are happy to be out and about in the warm weather. Unfortunately, these eight-legged creatures can do serious damage to our pets, as well as ourselves.

Pennsylvania leads the nation in Lyme disease cases, but there are other dangers associated with ticks and pets. At Conrad-Weiser Animal Hospital, raising awareness about ticks is important to us, and we want to help you protect your furry friend this spring and throughout the year.

Berks, Reading, Lebanon and Lancaster counties in Pennsylvania, all have deer ticks and American dog ticks. Deer ticks actively feed at temperatures 40 degrees and above, making them active here 10 to 12 months of the year. We see American dog ticks here from April to the end of August.

In the summer, deer ticks are so small that we hardly notice them on ourselves or our on our pets. By default, any tick you can see in the summer is an American dog tick.

The Wonderful World of Ticks

Although many people think of ticks as insects or “bugs,” they’re actually arachnids (think spiders, scorpions, and mites) that feed on the blood of mammals. Ticks pick up diseases by feeding on infected animals and pass them along during their next feeding. Most people and pets remain unaware that a tick is attached to them thanks to a compound in their saliva that numbs the site of the bite and reduces itching or other allergic responses. That same compound also contains an anticoagulant that enhances blood flow, making disease transmission that much more effective.

Besides Lyme disease, ticks can also transmit a variety of other nasty sounding diseases, including Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis, and others. Anaplasmosis moved into this part of Pennsylvania a few years ago and is now as prevalent as Lyme disease. These diseases are all zoonotic, meaning they can affect both people and animals. To make matters worse, some ticks, such as the deer tick, can carry multiple diseases, leading to multiple infections for an unwitting victim.

Keeping Ticks and Pets Separate

Ok, we get it. Ticks are gross and scary, but now what? Prevention is key when it comes to ticks and pets. Here are some simple yet effective ways you can protect your loved ones, both two and four-legged:

  • Keep your pet on a year-round flea and tick prevention medication. Although the chances of your pet being bitten by a tick go down in the winter, that doesn’t mean it can’t happen, and any lapse in protection puts your pet at risk.
  • Check your pet, your kids, and yourself thoroughly for ticks after being outdoors, especially in wooded areas. If you find a tick, remove it by grasping the head with a pair of tweezers and pulling straight back, being careful not to twist or squeeze it.
  • Always keep your dog on a leash while walking or hiking; stick to the trail, and stay out of brush, tall grasses, and wooded areas.
  • Clear debris from your property, and keep grass and shrubbery trimmed to eradicate areas where ticks could hide.
  • Ask your veterinarian if your dog is a good candidate for the Lyme disease vaccine.

What We Can Do

Most over-the-counter tick medicines take 24 to 48 hours to kill a tick. This leaves ample time for disease transmission. We have 2 products that kill deer ticks very quickly, leaving much less chance for disease transmission. Bravecto is an oral pill for dogs that lasts for 3 months and kills deer ticks within 12 hours of attachment. Bravecto also has a topical solution for cats. Frontline Gold is a topical product that is used once monthly and will kill ticks in less than 24 hours.

If you have any additional questions regarding ticks and pets or if you need to talk to us about which medicine to use, please contact the friendly team at Conrad-Weiser.