We are now entering Tick Season… or so we think. Unlike many other parasites, ticks are not killed by freezing temperatures and can remain active most of the year in Clarksburg, Maryland. They are not generally active unless the temperatures are above freezing, but that means they can still bite in temperatures of 40-50 degrees. We rarely have prolonged periods of freezing temperatures in Clarksburg, Maryland that eliminate the need for prevention. Ideally your pet should have Tick Preventatives all year long.
Maryland has the American Dog Tick, Deer Tick, Brown Dog Tick, Lone Star Tick and rarely the Gulf Coast Tick. Some have no seasonality to active periods, while others are more active Spring to Fall with lower activity in Winter. Lyme Disease is the most common tick born disease we see at Clarksburg Animal Hospital. Ticks also come with other diseases – Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Tick Paralysis, Anaplasmosis, Ehrlichiosis, and Babesiosis. Preventing bites is critical, even with Lyme vaccination.
Dogs are the main focus for Tick Borne Diseases. Outdoor cats get ticks, but groom most of them off before they can transmit disease, so cats rarely develop tick borne diseases. Dogs need more help from us. There are many effective products for tick prevention. The choice is based on lifestyle risks, health, budget and personal preferences. Clarksburg Animal Hospital and their veterinarians will help you determine which product is best for your pet.
Topicals (oil based and applied over the back) are still the best option. There is a collar that provides a more continuous topical oil over 8 months (nothing like the traditional collars) and has the best tick protection of any other product available. The topicals stay in the oils against the skin and in the hair follicles and are not absorbed systemically. Ticks crawl through it and die or have their mouth paralyzed before they are able to bite.
Oral preventatives (pills) are effective and very convenient, but have downsides. The active ingredient is systemic and ticks have to bite to get exposed to the product. It can take 8 to 48 hours to kill the ticks after they bite. Unfortunately, ticks typically transmit disease in 24 hours. There is more risk of disease transmission even if these products kill the tick. These products can trigger seizures in dogs prone to them, but are generally well tolerated without any side effects. Pet owner concerns over exposure to humans with topicals and greater ease of administration drive interest in these products. These products are generally more expensive than topicals.
Managing your environment can also decrease the risk for tick exposure. Keep grass mowed under 3 inches, keep wood piles in dry areas, clean up yard waste, keep plants trimmed to avoid higher moisture on the ground, and avoid attracting deer and rodents. Choose hiking paths for you and your dog that are not lined by tall grasses and stay on the path. Yard treatments are also available at home improvement stores or can be professionally applied to reduce ticks in your yard.
Dogs can still get exposed to Tick Born Diseases even if you do everything correctly. Every dog should be checked for tick borne disease once a year. Clarksburg Animal Hospital performs a yearly screening for Heartworm, Lyme Disese, Ehrlichia and Anaplasmosis each year at their check-up (4Dx Test). This test can be run in your veterinarian’s office in about 10 minutes. It screens for Lyme, two strains of Anaplasmosis and two strains of Ehrlichiosis. This test will catch Tick Born Diseases in your dog early and give your dog a chance to avoid more serious effects. Your veterinarian is a great resource to help you evaluate your dog’s risk level and which products are the best and safest for your dog and your family. Schedule their check-up today at Clarksburg Animal Hospital with Dr. Greta and her team and talk with us about your dog’s lifestyle and your preferences for protection.