Ticks are back in full force.

And that means tick-borne illnesses are, as well.

The sweltering summer heat and humidity are prime conditions for the little bloodsuckers. And in densely wooded areas and spaces populated by tall grasses – you will never see them coming.

But there are certain steps that pet parents can take to protect their dogs and cats from ticks and related dangers.

Tick prevention and removal are essential, if occasionally unpleasant, parts of being a pet owner. Consider the following six tips to take the bite out of a potentially bad situation.

  1. Inspect your pets thoroughly: Be sure to examine your dog closely after any outdoor play, and doubly so if you happen to live in a forested area. Use your fingers to parse through their fur, gently pressing to determine if any bumps are present on or near the skin. Ticks are frequently small (though not always) – and can even be pinhead-sized. Leave no ground uncovered, as ticks love to hide in dark, moist areas. Check between toes, under ear flaps, and around the neck and face.
  2. Consider preventive measures. Fence lines and mulch barriers have been proven to be somewhat effective for tick prevention. Professionals recommend a 3-foot barrier between your property and a wooded area to see true results. This not only creates a deterrent to ticks, who don’t care for the dry, hot mulch, but it also serves as a reminder to your family – and pets – not to cross into tick territory. Keeping your grass trimmed short, discarding brush promptly, and avoiding sweet-smelling plants like rosemary and mint can also curb tick intrusion and reduce the need for removal later on.
  3. Try a collar. Experts agree: for flea and tick collars to work effectively – they need to be snug enough around the neck that they’re doing their job. Too loose, and you’re left with just a colorful fashion accessory. The chemical ingredients must rub off on your pet’s skin and hair to spread efficiently and ward off intruders.
  4. Get topical: Sometimes the best bet is to apply topical treatments directly to your pet’s skin. Behind the neck or between the shoulder blades works best. Why? Because your dog or cat can’t reach to lick it off. Proper placement will ultimately depend on the animal, though. Be sure to leave some space between topical treatment and your pet’s next bath, otherwise, you may simply be washing your defenses away. Sprays can be effective, but consistency will be key. A spritz may be necessary before each outing. And if you have small children who have close contact with your pets, oral medication may be preferable to topical treatments and/or collars, as it eliminates the risk of the little ones coming into contact with the active chemicals.
  5. Ask about medication. Consult with your veterinarian about the viability of oral treatments. A monthly chewable may help to reduce the risk of flea and tick bites (and can even pull triple duty, preventing heartworm and other parasites, to boot!) Some medications are only effective against tickborne diseases for eight weeks. Your pet’s health history will also determine whether or not you are a good candidate.
  6. Remove ticks carefully. Ticks are nasty, but they don’t have to derail your plans completely. Follow these steps to remove a hanger-on quickly and effectively.
    • Using tweezers or a Tick Twister, grab the tick as close to the skin as possible.
    • Pull steadily until the tick is pulled free and clear from your pet. (Resist the urge to yank.)
    • A reddened spot may result. Do not panic. This is common and will fade in time.
    • If a deer tick or Lyme tick bite is suspected, have your dog retested in 6 weeks for disease. Ticks causing Lyme disease are typically darker and much smaller than the American Dog Tick (which does not transmit Lyme disease).

Ticks are a nuisance, particularly when we want to have some fun in the sun outdoors with our pets. But with the proper counsel and by following some simple tick prevention and removal tips, you can still enjoy the summer without too much worry.

At Green Acres, our staff is experienced with tick removal, should it ever be necessary. As always, preventive parasite treatment is recommended for all of our guests this summer. Be sure to discuss effective tick prevention and removal with your veterinarian. Opt for a product that best suits your dog or a cat and follow directions closely for maximum efficiency.