Who has spring fever?  I sure do!

What a winter we had, especially the month of March.  And of course, April was not typical spring temperatures either.  In fact, it was downright cold for most of the month.
Finally, we are in the heart of spring, with summer not too long away.  We are all so happy to get out of the house and take our pups on some nice, long hikes.  As much as we are excited to finally shed the winter clothes and enjoy the outdoors, we now have outdoor troubles to worry about.  By that I mean: the dreaded ticks.  Not a topic most of us want to think about.

Here is some helpful information for you:

Where are the common places dogs pick up ticks?

Dogs typically get ticks from walking through high grass, shrubs and wooded areas.  Ticks will typically hang out at about 18-24 inches off the ground waiting for the next warm body to brush by.  Did you know that ticks can live well over a year without feeding?  They will lie and wait and wait and wait until an animal/human walks by the plant material that they are hanging onto, and from there climb onto their food source.

What do ticks do once they find your pup?

Ticks are NOT jumpers.  Once a tick finds a host it typically starts from the bottom – feet and legs — and crawls upward.  They usually land around the head, neck and ears where the skin is thinner. That is where they will bite, latch on, and hang on for days.

Once the tick bites its host, it can take around 24 hours for the germs, infections and viruses to make their way into the tick’s salivary glands to be released into the host.  This is why it is so important to do a daily tick check.

How can I avoid having my pet pick up a tick while we are out?

Your pet is less likely to pick up a tick when they are walking with you on a path.  When you can, avoid off-leash hiking in areas where there is high grass, dense undergrowth.  Those areas encourage dogs to sniff and investigate their surroundings, and they can easily pick up a tick waiting at the top of the grass or brush for them to pass by.

What is the best way to remove a tick:

IT IS ABSOLUTELY CRUCIAL to remove ticks properly.
It is best to go right to your vet to remove ticks unless you have a lot of experience removing ticks and are confident in disposing of them safely.  Making an incorrect or unsuccessful attempt can cause more problems than if you left the tick alone until you can get your pet to the vet to have it removed properly.  For example, you could easily break off the tick’s head, leaving it behind embedded in your pet’s skin.
If you feel you must remove the tick yourself as you are unable to get to a vet, pointy tweezers should be your weapon of choice.  Using pointed tweezers, grasp the head of the tick as close to the skin as possible, and pull upward quickly.  It’s important to squeeze the tick by its head only to avoid the risk of pushing the infected saliva into the bite wound.

3 common tick diseases in New England and possible symptoms:

LYME DISEASE: 
Humans will most likely get a “Bulls eye” rash, but dogs are different and will not display a rash.  Look for: random, sudden onset leg lameness and leg shifting that lasts more than a day, loss of appetite, depression, tiredness and reluctance to move.

ANAPLASMOSIS:
Watch for loss of appetite, lethargy, lameness, reluctance to move, neck pain, neurological signs, bruising of gums and belly and nose bleeds.

EHRLICHIA:
Keep an eye out for depression, lack of energy, loss of appetite, discharge in the eyes and nose, nose bleeds, bruising on the gums and belly, lameness and joint pain.
These are just a few possible symptoms.  The best rule of thumb: know your pet.  Watch for any changes in them physically or emotionally.  Remember, you are your pets’ best advocate. You know when they are not feeling well.  They are not able to tell us what is happening.  If you see any changes be sure to take them to your veterinarian.

WITH TICK BITES, PREVENTION IS KEY:

  • Always do a complete body check for yourself and your dog after you have been out with your dog on a walk or hike.  This is especially Important if you walk in areas known for high tick population.
  • Take preventative measures to keep your pet from being exposed to ticks.  These measures include topical applications (lotions, cremes), tick collars and even some oral medications.
  • Consult with your veterinarian to find the optimum choice for your dog.

Being educated about ticks and following some simple rules will allow you to enjoy your walks with your pups…. Here’s to nice weather!  Hope to see you and your pups on the Trailside!!
Do you have a favorite Tick Prevention idea?  Post below!