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This time of year it is not uncommon to find many pet owners enjoying the great outdoors with their pets. But if the proper preventatives are not being used to protect your dog, what can begin as a great day in nature can end up being a tick-infested nightmare.

Ticks 101

Ticks are nature’s hitchhikers. These blood-sucking parasites are known for laying in wait in tall grasses and thickets for an animal to come by so they can hitch a ride and enjoy the blood buffet.

This process, known as “questing,” entails the tick waiting on a blade of grass, leaf, or limb with their front legs extended in order to attach themselves to a passing food source. Once a tick has successfully quested (hopped a ride), it buries its head into the skin of their prey and gorges itself on blood in an effort to complete its reproductive lifecycle.

Environment

Ticks are most commonly found in tall grasses, thickets, or any natural area that gives them a vantage point for their questing. Many pet owners and outdoor enthusiasts only consider the deep woods and wetlands as the tick’s stomping grounds, but in truth ticks can be found in urban parks and suburban neighborhoods just as often as their woodland counterparts.

Consequences

Ticks are more than just a nuisance to pets and people, as many ticks can infect their hosts with a wide range of tick-borne illnesses. Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tick-borne encephalitis, and an array of bacterial infections are just a few of the more common tick-borne illnesses, many of which are both difficult and expensive to treat.

Tick Check

Get into the routine of checking your pet for ticks at the end of every day or, at the very least, every outing. Ticks like to latch onto the skin around your pet’s ears, head and neck, but can often be found anywhere that comes into contact with the tick’s questing environment.

Typically, ticks are quite small, which makes them easy to miss until they’ve gorged themselves on blood and swollen into an unmistakable size. If you find a tick, don’t panic. Simply get your tweezers, some rubbing alcohol and a lighter and prepare for a tick extraction.

Dab the area with rubbing alcohol, and then get a hold of the tick’s body using your tweezers. Being careful not to “rupture” the tick, pull it straight out of your pet’s skin. Be certain not to twist the tick (as its body may separate from its head) and do your very best to get all of the parasite, including its head. After the tick has been removed, swab the affected area with rubbing alcohol and then light the tick on fire.

Yes, you read that right. Light the tick on fire. Or, barring that, drown it in rubbing alcohol. Don’t throw the tick in the trash or try to flush it down the toilet because, believe it or not, that won’t kill the tick.

Preventatives

When it comes to keeping your pet safe and healthy, knowing where and what to look for is only half the battle. For the most assured protection against ticks and tick-borne illnesses, preventative treatment is often the best course of action.

While there are many tick preventatives available on the market, they are not all created equal. At Wheaton Animal Hospital, our veterinarians prescribe Our veterinarians prescribe Vectra 3D for dogs and Vectra for cats. This topical preventative is effective on both fleas and ticks, and has been proven to decrease the risk of these parasites preying on your pet.

To learn more about the Activyl line of preventatives or to schedule an appointment, please give us a call. Likewise, if you are concerned that your pet has become infected with a tick-borne illness, contact us immediately.