By Susan Paretts
Spending time with your furry buddy outdoors is fun, but unfortunately, parasites like ticks are lurking out there. Ticks are a type of arachnid that latch onto your pet’s skin to feed on you pet’s blood. These pests can carry diseases, including Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, so it’s best to do a “tick check” after jaunts outdoors, and get rid of the pests before they make you or your pet sick.
When to Check for Ticks
Ticks don’t like extreme cold or heat, according to Judy Morgan, DVM, of the Clayton Veterinary Associates in Clayton, New Jersey, and the Naturally Healthy Pets website. “Ticks are around all year, but definitely have an increase in activity in spring and fall,” she says. “They are fairly quiet when it is really hot and dry, preferring to live in cool, shady areas.”
Ticks typically hang out in wooded areas, under thick bushes, within leaf litter or woodpiles, and among tall grass, warns the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Give Pets the Once-Over
Check your pet’s body regularly for ticks, even after a simple backyard play session. Run your fingers over your dog’s body, raking them through the fur like a comb. Feel for any small lumps or bumps. “Good grooming is essential; daily checks for fleas and ticks are a must during the ‘in’ season,” recommends Dr. Morgan.
Note that ticks can vary in size, with some being as small as a pinhead. A grooming tool, like the ConairPRO Dog Flea Comb, can help locate the tiny pests, especially if your pet’s fur is dense. Be sure to check the armpits, groin, inside the ears and between your pet’s toes—all places ticks love to hide.
Remove Those Pesky Pests
If you find any ticks on your pet’s body, remove them as quickly as you can. You’ll need a pair of plastic gloves, tweezers and a cup filled with isopropyl alcohol. Wear gloves to protect yourself from any diseases the tick may be carrying. Then, gently grasp the tick with the tweezers—as close to the dog’s skin as possible—and pull it out, taking care not to leave any part of it behind. Drop the tick directly into the alcohol to kill it, and then save it. If your four-legged friend exhibits any signs of illness within seven to 21 days, your vet can examine the tick to see if it carried any diseases.
How to Prevent Problems
To avoid ticks, it’s best to keep to the middle of hiking trails, avoiding any vegetation that could harbor ticks. Also, pick up any leaves in your yard. “Keeping grass mown short definitely helps,” recommends Dr. Morgan. “Food-grade diatomaceous earth can [also] be used on bedding, carpets, yards and even on the pet to kill fleas and ticks. It dries the exoskeleton of the fleas and ticks and causes them to die.”
Simply sprinkle the diatomaceous earth on areas where your pet frequents and wash it off or vacuum it up after about three days. In terms of other natural solutions, use them with caution. “There are many essential oil sprays and products available for use on pets,” says Dr. Morgan. “Cats are more sensitive to oils, and only products clearly labeled for cats should be used on them,” she warns.
Darlene Richards, a licensed veterinary technician in Las Vegas, Nevada, recommends visiting your local veterinary office to get flea-and tick-preventative medication. There are both oral and topical meds available, and you and your vet can determine which is best for your pet.
Since ticks can transmit disease within one to two days, it’s important to remove any that you find right away. With regular checks of your pet’s coat and skin, you’ll help protect both of you from tick-borne illness.