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Ticks: how to protect your dog (and you) from this summer scourge: these tiny transmittors of disease make daily checks a must.

Ticks are tenacious. They creep up tall grass, weeds, fences--or even the walls of your house--and wait until a passing shadow, a vibration, an odor or even a whiff of exhaled carbon dioxide tells them a possible host might be passing by. Then they let go of their perch and fall, or reach out with their front legs to snag hold of a furry coat (or your pants leg). Once onboard, they insert their mouths into their prey and begin their meal. During this feeding, tick saliva mixes with the host's blood.


Disease Carriers. As a result of this transfer of fluids, ticks rival mosquitoes as carriers of disease to both human and animal. Although ticks are most often associated with Lyme Disease, they can also transmit ehrlichiosis (similar to Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever), tularemia (Rabbit Fever) and tick paralysis to dogs. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you see any of the warning signs that your pet has contracted a tick-transmitted disease, such as fever, lameness, swelling in the joints or glands, listlessness, loss of appetite, loss of coordination, or difficulty with breathing, chewing or swallowing.

A vaccine to prevent Lyme Disease is available, though it is not appropriate for all dogs, says Carolyn McDaniel, DVM, a Clinical Sciences instructor at Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine. She also cautions that since no vaccine is 100 percent effective, tick control remains a crucial part of preventive medicine for dogs in tick-infested areas.

Because a vast number of tick-prevention products are available--some of them containing dangerous pesticides--Dr. McDaniel urges pet owners to consult with their veterinarians to come up with a tick prevention program tailored to their animals. "For animals at risk of tick exposure, this will always include a tick prevention product along with avoiding high risk natural areas when possible, and daily tick checks."


Read the Labels. The Humane Society of the United States cautions pet owners never to use a product intended for a cat on a dog. Follow the manufacturer's instructions exactly. And don't use pesticides on a pet that is elderly, pregnant, ill or very young without instructions from your veterinarian. And if you do want to try a home remedy, be sure to consult with your veterinarian first.

Checking your pet daily for ticks can make all the difference, since a tick has to be feeding for longer than 24 hours to transmit Lyme Disease. If your dog has a particularly thick coat, wetting it thoroughly will make ticks easier to spot. Pay particular attention to the paws, face, ears, mouth area and genitals--although ticks can attach anywhere. Sometimes your pet's behavior will indicate where a tick is hiding, such as chewing at its paw because of a tick between the pads.


The correct--and safe--method of tick removal is simple, though not always quick. But it pays to take the time to do it the proper way:

* Using tweezers, grasp the tick as close to where it is embedded in the skin as possible. Do not grasp the tick by its body. (If your pet gets a lot of ticks, V-shaped or grooved instruments are available which slide between the skin and the tick to ease removal.) Never use your fingers, as this can expose you to diseases that the tick may be carrying.

* Pull slowly and steadily, directly out. Do not jerk, twist or wiggle the tick. The steady pressure will make the tick release its hold and allow you to remove it intact. Be patient if this takes a little time.

* Check to make sure all of the tick has been removed. Occasionally some of the tick's mouth remains embedded in the skin. Be careful to remove any parts remaining.

* Once you have removed the tick, put it in alcohol to kill it. (Believe it or not, ticks can survive being flushed down the toilet, as well as being thrown in the garbage.)

* Disinfect the bite wound with soap or a disinfectant. You can then apply antibiotic ointment if you choose. Be sure to wash your hands well.
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Publication:Dog Watch
Date:Jun 1, 2009
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