By Robert J. Weiner, VMD, ABVP
Ticks are small parasitic arthropods. They have been in the news because, frankly, ticks suck. They can transmit several diseases to humans and animals. There are several species of ticks that are important. The Deer Tick (Ixodes scapularis) is the infamous vector of Lyme disease. Other species of ticks found in Rockland County include the American Dog Tick (Dermacentor variabilis) and the Brown Dog Tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineous). The Lone Star Tick (Ambyomma americanum) isn’t in Rockland yet, but is working its way here. Just recently the Longhorned Tick (Haemaphysalis longiconis) was identified in our area. The diseases these critters can transmit include Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, rocky mountain spotted fever, babesiosis and Powassan virus. The list gets longer as more diseases emerge and are discovered. Veterinarians screen dogs routinely for several tick transmitted diseases by way of a blood test that is often combined with testing for heartworm (a mosquito transmitted disease of dogs). Some of these diseases, but not all, are treated with doxycycline but prevention is key. There are several products available to keep your dog and cats free of ticks. Your veterinarian can help you choose the one that best suits your pet and your family. Options include oral products (for dogs) given monthly or every 3 months (depending on the particular product), collars, and spot-on topical products. There are many over the counter products for purchase in stores or online. Some are generic versions of established and safe products and others are not. It is important that the product chosen is labelled for the species of animal to which it will be applied. Some dog products can be highly toxic to cats if misapplied on that species. You also need to choose the products that are labelled for your pet’s body weight. Your veterinarian is the one best able to advise you. The product manufacturers know this and often offer rebates on products sold by veterinarians that are not available online or in a store. No product is 100% effective in keeping ticks off of dogs or cats. All of these products take some time to kill ticks and some are faster than others. You should check you pets daily and remove ticks when you see them. Your veterinarian can teach you the proper way to remove ticks from your pet. Tick control should be continued year-round. Ticks are out and ready to attach if the ambient temperature reaches 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Proper and timely application of safe and effective tick control products and regular tick inspections will help keep your pet healthy and also reduce the possibility that unattached ticks will enter your home and threaten your family. It is time to speak to your veterinarian about tick control. Tick Talk!