Welcome back to our discussion on Pesky Pests! The ticks are out!
Have you found any ticks on your dog in the last few weeks during your outdoor adventures? I certainly have. There’s nothing like finding a tick crawling on my dog (or myself) to remind me to keep up on preventatives.
In our last blog, we discussed what ticks to watch for, what diseases they carry, and how to test your dog for exposure. Today, we are going to continue our discussion on ticks and how to protect our dogs from them.
How can I keep my dog safe from ticks?
When I consider the idea of tick prevention I take a three-part approach for my personal dogs. It is what I like to call the “CAP” approach: Check, Apply, Protect.
The first step I take is shortly after any outdoor adventure with my dogs I check them over for ticks. I look them over closely and also run a comb through their fur. At this time, you may find ticks crawling on or in your dog’s fur where they can easily be removed. This step is important because you will likely find ticks before they’ve ever had a chance to attach to your dog and transmit disease.
Although a tick can find a good hiding place on any part of your dog, common places you will find ticks are:
- On/Around the head – be sure to especially check under your dog’s collar(s) and under the ears
- Legs – don’t forget to check in between your dog’s toes as well
As you may recall, if you do find a tick attached to your dog, it is important to remove it as soon as possible. This can be done through a variety of ways and is commonly based on your comfort level. I choose to remove a tick from my dog by hand and because the diseases ticks carry are transmissible to humans I make sure to wear gloves when doing so.
The key to removing a tick is making sure you remove the ENTIRE tick. If the head is left attached/embedded in the skin, infection can occur. Other options include using tools like a forceps or a Tick Key.
If removing it yourself is not your cup of tea, be sure to call your veterinarian for assistance – many staff members at vet clinics are trained to remove ticks safely, so they may even be able to do it without an appointment.
There may be times you may not be able to see or find every tick crawling on your dog. This is where the second step becomes very important and acts as an extra safeguard for your dog – Apply tick preventatives.
There are many tick preventatives on the market that come in the form of monthly topical applications or edible chews/medications for dogs. Some common products used today are:
- Nexgard – edible chew
- Frontline / Frontline Plus / Frontline Gold – topical
- Seresto – wearable collar
- Bravecto – edible chew, topical
- Simparica / Simparica Trio – edible chew
- Credelio – tablet
- Revolution – topical
Although these products give a helpful layer of protection for our dogs, they are chemicals that our dogs are being exposed to with potential side effects, and therefore need to be chosen wisely. In a recent article published by Dr. Jean Dodds and Project Jake, they go over some of the more concerning side effects seen with some of these products prompting the FDA to issue warnings to users.
Although I try to use as few “chemicals” on my dogs as possible, their tick exposure is very high, so I need them to have an extra layer of protection from tick diseases. I choose to use, and have for many years, Frontline Gold. I am comforted in the fact that I can wash some/most of it off of my dogs in the event that I were to see a reaction or side effect from it within the first 24-48 hours. Whereas an ingestible product may be harder to remove from your dog, depending on the timing of reaction.
If you are desiring to use a more natural product to protect your dog from ticks, there are some available. These include:
- Wondercide – plant based spray on
- Essential Oils – cedar, lavender, citronella, peppermint, lemongrass (read labels carefully when using on pets)
- CatanDog’s Tag – wearable collar tag
The third and final step in my approach to protecting my dogs from ticks comes in the form of a Lyme vaccination.
Vaccinations play a very important part in the health of our dogs and core-vaccinations are a big part of that. The Lyme vaccination is not part of core-vaccinations and is termed more of a “lifestyle vaccination.” In other words, when considering a “lifestyle vaccination” it is all about risk assessment.
Ask yourself if your dog is at heightened risk of contracting the disease a specific vaccination prevents. If so, that specific vaccination may be advisable. For tick diseases, the only vaccination available at this time is for Lyme disease.
Given the lifestyle my dogs and I lead, ticks are a risk to us on almost a daily basis. Therefore, I feel the Lyme vaccination is an important step in keeping my dogs safe. This vaccination is commonly boosted annually. However, because I am a big proponent of not over-vaccinating, I choose to titer test my dog’s Lyme vaccination annually. This test result tells me if the vaccination in his body is still at a suitable level to mount a defense if exposed to Lyme disease. (I’m happy to say that even after 4 years from his last Lyme vaccination, it is still holding strong in his body!)
If you find that your dog is exposed to ticks often, please consult with your veterinarian on whether or not the Lyme vaccination is warranted, and if titer testing is available.
Be mindful with your prevention
I hope this article has shed some light on different ways you can protect your dog from ticks. Please remember that no approach is 100% effective and some approaches are not without side effects. This is why I implement my three-part CAP approach in hopes that each step covers the miss-falls of the previous step for my dogs. Find an approach that works for you to keep your dogs safe, because at the end of the day, don’t let ticks stop you from adventuring with your dog!
Stay tuned next month as we switch gears to talk about fleas and heartworm in Pesky Pests Part Three!