Warm weather beckons with adventures and fun -- and pesky parasites. Dogs and their humans are susceptible to tick bites and to the hazardous diseases the ticks carry. Tick prevention is an ongoing task; manage it with the help of a licensed veterinarian.
The Dangers of Tick Bites
Once a tick is embedded beneath its host's skin for 24 hours, it can transmit several dangerous diseases. The most commonly transmitted diseases are Lyme, Ehrlichia, anaplasmosis, babesiosis and encephalitis. Symptoms include loss of appetite, fever, muscle aches or headache, and nausea or vomiting. Canine babesiosis causes lethargy, weakness and discolored urine as well as jaundice and enlarged lymph nodes. A blood test will confirm the presence of the disease before a course of treatment is prescribed.
Over-the-counter topical treatments are convenient and last for a month, but you must apply them exactly according to label directions. Shampoos are effective against ticks but must be administered once every two weeks, as the ingredients won't last for an extended period of time. Tick dips are concentrated; they must be diluted in water. They are not meant to be rinsed off following application and are very potent, and should not be used on pregnant females or puppies.
Oral preventatives are safe when used according to label instructions and prescribed by a veterinarian; they provide monthlong protection against pests such as ticks. The chemical afoxolaner causes a disruption in the parasite's central nervous system, resulting in hyperexcitation and death. The products are safe for puppies over 8 weeks of age and are easy to administer. Some dog owners prefer oral preventatives due to their safety for other members of the household, such as children and cats.
Adding a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to a dog's drinking water will cause his blood acidity to rise, making the blood distasteful to parasites. Another safeguard is the application of food-grade diatomaceous earth to the dog's coat, which is lethal to ticks but safe for you and Bowser.
Preventing Tick Problems at Home
A neatly trimmed lawn, shrubs and trees will discourage tick populations, while picking up leaf litter and dead twigs will remove potential hiding places. Plant shrubs and plants in areas where dogs and children will not play, reducing their exposure to ticks. Nematodes, organisms that resemble worms and live in soil, feed on tick larvae; talk to a home improvement retailer's staff about applying them to your yard to eliminate ticks. Plan your garden so it doesn't attract deer, and use deer fencing, since deer are tick carriers.