Ask the Vet About Ticks!
The call came in at 8:00am on the dot, just as I was unlocking the front door for the day. “How do I safely get this tick off my dog?! How do I know if it is a deer tick? Should I get it tested? The dog and cat are bringing ticks into the house! Yesterday I picked 15 ticks off my dog and I am using tick protection! What else can I do?”
Pet owners throughout Cape Elizabeth, Scarborough and South Portland are struggling to stem the tide of ticks this year. Not only do they diminish our enjoyment of the outdoors, but they threaten the health of our pets and our families. In fact this has been the #1 question we have received for this column.
So what can we do to protect against these miserable little pests? For starters, there are many different flea and tick products available for animals, and you should speak with your veterinarian about which one is appropriate for your particular pet. It can depend on the health of an animal and what type of exposure you are dealing with. If you walk your dog in marshy areas or through the woods regularly, you may even need to find a safe combination of products to be adequately covered. Keeping your lawn closely mowed can also discourage ticks around your home.
If you find that you are doing everything possible but still seeing too many ticks on your pet, the problem can be made worse by unknowingly purchasing counterfeit products from online sources, or improperly applying topicals. Be sure to have someone in your vet’s office show you how to apply the topicals and help you fit collars correctly. There are safe, effective flea/tick products available from your veterinarian including: topicals, collars, oral medicine and clothing woven with tick repellants.
What about getting a tick tested for disease? Due to the unusual number of ticks this year, the University of Maine Cooperative Extension is currently taking tick samples for tick-born disease testing. If you find an engorged tick on you or your pet, and you are concerned that it is carrying a tick-borne illness, you can go to their website for instructions on how to submit it to them for testing. https://umaine.edu/news/blog/2019/04/02/umaine-extension-now-offering-tick-testing-for-maine-residents/
How do I remove a tick? When pulling out a tick, wear gloves if at all possible. Grasp the tick firmly with tweezers or a napkin, and twist clockwise while pulling it out. This will cause the legs to release better than just pulling it straight out, so there is less risk of a piece of the tick remaining imbedded in the skin. You can wash the area with mild soap, rinse and dry well. The bites usually heal well, but notify your vet if there are any signs of infection.
Thank you to our readers! We are very impressed by all of the interesting and intelligent questions we have received. I promise we will eventually address all of them in this column, and we are glad to know there are so many caring pet owners in our community.
Written by Robin Elliott
Send your questions to:
Dr. Ginger Browne Johnson | Veterinary and Rehabilitation Center of Cape Elizabeth
EMAIL - (attn: Ask the Vet)