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Protecting Your Pet From Ticks

May 14 2024

You may have heard that many experts are predicting yet another tick explosion this summer. While ticks were once somewhat rare here in the north, in recent years their population has grown exponentially. Ticks are far more than just a disgusting nuisance: they can carry all sorts of dangerous diseases, many of which can also afflict people. Pets are particularly susceptible. Read on as a local Poconos PA vet offers some advice on protecting your furry buddy from these horrible little monsters.

Keep Up With Preventative Care

First and foremost, stay up-to-date-with your furry companion’s preventative treatment. There are quite a few products to choose from these days. Talk to your vet to determine which one is best for you and your canine pal.

To stay on track, you may want to set a monthly reminder on your phone. Keep in mind that these products will become less effective as it approaches the time for your pet to take their next dose.

Another thing to keep in mind? You should never double up on these types of products. That may expose your furry friend to dangerous levels of the chemicals that prevent infestations.

Mow Your Lawn

Ticks love to lurk in tall grasses, waiting for their next victim to happen by. If you own your own property, keep your yard mowed. Even if you want to let part of your land grow wild, keep a small section of lawn clipped. You can install fencing or shrubs to keep Fido out of the taller areas.

Ground Your Cat

We always recommend keeping cats indoors. This is just one more reason to keep Fluffy safe and sound inside. (Ticks can still get in, but indoor cats are much less likely to get bit.)

Check Your Canine Buddy Regularly

It’s not a bad idea to get into the habit of checking Fido for ticks daily. This is pretty easy to work into your regular cuddle time, as you can do it discreetly as you’re petting him. Be thorough about it: check under your pet’s collar, in his ears, in his ‘armpits,’ and between his toes.

To be fair, it may be harder to spot or feel a tick on a fluffy dog. Keep your pet well-groomed by brushing him regularly, and look for hitchhikers during those beauty sessions.

Pick Up Produce

Do you have a garden, berry bushes, or fruit trees? Pick up any fallen produce right away. This could attract animals that carry ticks, such as rats and raccoons.

Trim Shrubberies

If you have bushes or shrubs as landscaping, make sure to keep them trimmed back so that the branches don’t touch the walls of your house. That’s just giving eight-legged intruders easy access!

Use Diatomaceous Earth

Another thing you can do is sprinkle food-grade diatomaceous earth around your window sills and door jambs. This will kill ticks, but isn’t harmful to beneficial insects. Just wear a mask as you’re setting it out: while DE is non-toxic, it isn’t safe to breathe the dust.

Skip The Mulch

Mulch is a favorite with gardeners, but it does pose a couple of concerns for people with pets, particularly those with dogs. The mulch can offer a convenient hiding spot for ticks. Plus, Fido could get paw splinters. Some dogs will even eat the mulch chips! Cocoa mulch is the most concerning, as cocoa is toxic to dogs. Opt for pea gravel instead. Or, if you do use mulch, create a bordered bed that will discourage Fido from digging up your plants.

Plant Tick Repellants

This probably wouldn’t be enough in and of itself, but it certainly can’t hurt! Some plants do seem to repel ticks. These include lavender, rosemary, lemongrass, marigold, mint, catnip, chrysanthemums, sage, basil, thyme, rue,  geranium, oregano, beautyberry, chamomile, lemon balm, peppermint, and petunia. You may also find garlic, chrysanthemums, eucalyptus, geraniums, and pennyroyal listed as tick-repellant options on garden sites. We wouldn’t recommend these, because they are toxic to dogs. You may be okay putting these in a tall planter your pet can’t reach or in an area of the yard Fido doesn’t have access to, but definitely don’t put them within paws’ reach.

You can find more info on safe and unsafe plants on the ASPCA site here. Ask your Poconos PA vet for more information. 

Add A Border

Does your property border woods or fields? If so, you may want to put a gravel path in along the edge. Ticks don’t like being exposed to sunlight, so many will turn back at these borders. (The downside: they’ll be waiting on the other side.)

Pick Up Refuse

Things like log piles, fallen branches, and other yard refuse can provide ticks with a welcoming habitat. Keep these things picked up.

What Kind Of Ticks And Tickborne Diseases Are There In Pennsylvania?

There are more than 900 known types of ticks in the world. These are divided into two groups: hard ticks (Ixodidae) and soft ticks (Argasidae). Several types have decided that they like it here in the Keystone State.

Here are the main ones:

  • Blacklegged tick (Deer Tick)
  • American dog tick
  • Lone star tick
  • Groundhog (Woodchuck) tick
  • Asian longhorned tick

The first three are the most concerning, as they are most likely to carry the diseases that affect both pets and people. Lyme disease is likely the most well-known. However, ticks can also carry Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis, tularemia, STARI (southern tick-associated rash illness), Heartland virus, and Bourbon virus. The Lone Star tick can also cause people to develop an allergy to red meat.

What Do I Do If I Find A Tick On My Dog?

What do you do if you spot that telltale little brown ball? It’s time to come to your pet’s rescue!

  1. The first thing you’ll want to do is gather your weapons. Tweezers are a pretty standard tool, but you can also get a tick remover, which is easy to use. You’ll also want antiseptic spray or lotion, a small jar, rubbing alcohol, and your phone.
  2. Pet your furry patient on the head and offer a (small) snack.
  3. Wash your hands. You don’t have to wear surgical gloves, but it’s not a bad idea.
  4. Pet your furry patient on the head and offer a (small) snack.
  5. Next, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get rid of the little monster. Grab a hold of the tiny bloodsucker, using the tool or tweezers. Pull back. Slow and steady is the way to go here. Do not twist or rip the tick out. If so, you will almost always leave part of the tick embedded in your pet’s skin. That can cause infections.
  6. Pet your furry patient on the head and offer a (small) snack.
  7. Now, you’ll want to get a picture of the tick. This isn’t so you can show off. If your pet was to develop symptoms, being able to ID the tick could be extremely helpful to your veterinarian. Make sure you get its back!
  8. Disposal time. Fill the little jar with rubbing alcohol, seal it, and throw it away. Do NOT put the tick down your toilet. If it was carrying eggs, they could possibly still be released.
  9. Pet your furry patient on the head and offer a (small) snack.
  10. Put antiseptic on the spot where the tick was.
  11. Wash your hands. You’ll also want to wash and disinfect your tool. (Victory dances are optional.)
  12. Pet your furry patient on the head and offer a (small) snack.

Keep an eye out for symptoms, such as swelling, fever, limping, or other signs of illness, over the next few weeks. If you notice anything unusual, contact your Poconos, PA animal hospital right away.

Make An Appointment At Your Poconos PA Pet Hospital

Is your pet due for an exam? Contact us, your local Poconos PA pet hospital, anytime. We are always  happy to help!

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