CDC infographic of blacklegged tick lone star tick and deer tick

It’s Tick Season!

As temperatures start to warm up in April and May so does the concern for ticks. Anytime it is above freezing, ticks can be active.  They are most active when it’s above 45 degrees Fahrenheit, but they don’t die off in the cold, they are just less active or dormant.  Adult ticks, are about the size of a sesame seed.  The months that are the biggest concern are from March to mid-May and mid-August to November.

Ticks can feed on mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians.  They find their hosts by detecting an animal’s breath and body odor or by sensing body heat or vibration.  They cannot fly or jump, but they will often wait on the tip of grass or shrubs or in trees.  Once a host brushes against the waiting spot, the tick climbs aboard or drops onto his subject from overhead and often attaches himself for a blood meal.

Depending on the species and stage of life, tick feedings can take from 10 minutes to two hours.  A blood meal is required at each stage of the tick’s life for its survival.  Once it feeds, most drop off and prepare for their next life stage.

Ticks transmit diseases such as Lyme, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Tularemia, Powassan Virus, Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, and Anaplasmosis.  Ticks most commonly found include the American Dog Tick, Blacklegged Tick, Brown Dog Tick, Gulf Coast Tick and the Lone Star Tick.

Methods to prevent ticks in dogs include spot-on medications, oral medications, shampoos, tick dips, tick collars, powders, sprays, treating the house and lawn, preforming regular tick checks and keeping him indoors or out of high-risk wooded areas.

There is some controversy around using spot-on and oral medication. Many veterinarians and owners swear by them and use them on their own dogs without a problem. Like all things, you have to take a look at your own surroundings and evaluate your dog’s risk. If your dog has long dark hair or doesn’t like being touched a lot, it might be very difficult or even impossible for you to perform daily tick checks.

Essential oils work by deterring ticks, not killing them.  Eucalyptus, lavender, lemongrass, geranium, pennyroyal and cedarwood all have been known to repel ticks.  You can put a few drops into the palm of your hand and then pet along your dog’s back to apply the oil.  You can also add several drops to a spray bottle of water and spray your dog each time you go outside.  You might want to consider using a natural product like Wondercide to treat your dog, his bed and environment and even your lawn.

If you choose to use essential oils and even if following a layered approach of prevention, you should still check your dog daily for ticks and remove them with a tick key or tick tweezers making sure you get the head out as well.  If the head breaks off, you’ll want to take your dog into the vet so he or she can remove it for you.

There is also a Lyme disease vaccine that might be a solution for some dogs living in heavily wooded areas.  It’s not for all dogs but could be a good solution for some.  Talk with your vet to see what the best solution is for your dog’s situation.

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