Everything You Need to Know to Prevent Ticks and Lyme Disease
The powers that be predicted it and it’s here. Tick season. Not all ticks carry disease. However, with a mild but wet winter this is proposed to be the most dangerous year thus far here in the northeastern United States. Tick-borne diseases are a real threat to the horses, dogs, and humans in the area. Most Lyme disease bacteria is transferred from nymphs, which are especially prevalent in the spring. But ticks are around all year long. So what can we do to prevent Lyme disease?
I have family members and friends with complications from Lyme disease. My house backs up to the woods with a multitude of woodland creatures, including chipmunks, rabbits, and a very active deer trail. Often they will go through my yard to get to the woods, so ticks are a very real concern. My dogs and daughters play outside, and often go for walks in the woods. Daily tick checks are an occurrence in my house.
Ticks will crawl onto a horse while it’s grazing and hide in the forelock, mane, and under the chin among other places.
Working with horses, ticks are especially difficult in spring. They crawl up the horses heads and legs as they graze on the grass and embed themselves under the chin, in the manes, and between their legs. I bought a tick remover so I wouldn’t have to use my hands to remove them and it works very well. Often I will spend a good 15 minutes removing ticks before I will actually start the massage.
Lyme disease is not the only tick-borne disease detrimental to humans and animals. The Centers for Disease Control details an alarmingly long list on their site. But only the deer tick transmits Lyme disease.**
A deer tick will attach and prepare to feed for up to 24 hours. The good news is that often the Lyme bacteria from ticks takes at least 36 hours to transfer once they are feeding. This is why daily tick checks are so important. Even if bitten, if you remove the tick quickly your chances are low for disease.
- Wear close-toed shoes, socks, and long pants.
- Wear light colors.
- Natural prevention: use an effective tick repellent like the all natural Insect Repellent from from Heather Wallace, Animal Massage Therapy every time you go outside. Organic, all natural and made to order it deters insects from attaching to you, your dog, and your horse.
- Use a lint roller on your hair, clothing, and on your pets before going inside your vehicle or home. A visual check is also highly effective.
- For dogs, I like to give them a nightly massage. This allows me to detect any bumps, spasms, and yes, ticks, that I may have missed with the lint roller. Important spots to check are around the anus and groin area.
- When grooming horses or petting your dog remove ticks which like to feed under the chin, around the head, neck, and between the hind legs. Horses are especially susceptible to tick-borne diseases due to grazing in paddocks for extended periods.
What To Do If You or your Animal Are Bitten By A Tick
How To Remove A Tick Safely
According to UptoDate:
“The proper way to remove a tick is to use a set of fine tweezers and grip the tick as close to the skin as is possible. Do not use a smoldering match or cigarette, nail polish, petroleum jelly (eg, Vaseline), liquid soap, or kerosene because they may irritate the tick and cause it to behave like a syringe, injecting bodily fluids into the wound.
The proper technique for tick removal includes the following:
●Use fine tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin surface as possible.
●Pull backwards gently but firmly, using an even, steady pressure. Do not jerk or twist.
●Do not squeeze, crush, or puncture the body of the tick, since its bodily fluids may contain infection-causing organisms.
●After removing the tick, wash the skin and hands thoroughly with soap and water.
●If any mouth parts of the tick remain in the skin, these should be left alone; they will be expelled on their own. Attempts to remove these parts may result in significant skin trauma.”
Take a photo of the tick. You may also store it in alcohol and have it tested. But please keep in mind that if the has bitten you but is not yet engorged, the chances for Lyme is very small.
Symptoms of Lyme Disease
If you have been bitten by a tick and did not remove it quickly you will not be able to get tested for Lyme disease right away. It can take up to 8 weeks for the bacteria to show up on a test. The CDC has a very thorough list of early and later symptoms that may occur.
Symptoms in Dogs
- Loss of appetite
- Reduced energy
- Lameness (can be shifting, intermittent, and recurring)
- Generalized stiffness, discomfort, or pain
- Swelling of joints
Symptoms in Humans
- Erythema migrans (EM) rash
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Severe headaches
- Joint Pain
- Facial Palsy
If you see any of these symptoms and have had contact with ticks, visit your doctor immediately.
Early treatment with antibiotics are usually all that is necessary. According to the Centers for Disease Control:
The Safest Course
Prevention is the key to avoiding Lyme disease and it’s complications. Due to the nature of my work with animals, I am more at risk than others and take special care to prevent tick bites. I was bitten once last year. I felt the bite immediately while walking out to the paddocks to get a horse and removed the tick within seconds. My skin became inflamed and swollen around the bite site and although I did not require antibiotics, my doctor is pretty positive that I am allergic. It was swollen, itchy, and sensitive for weeks! I never want to deal with that again.
What is your preferred method of tick bite prevention for you or your animals?
This is really great advice! My family got a new puppy recently and she’s too young to give flea/ticket medicine to so we’ve been super careful about checking her for ticks. So far this year it’s been brutal! We’ve even pulled several ticks off my older dog, who has already been given the flea/tick medicine! I guess the best thing about having light-colored dogs is being able to see the ticks easily!
That is certainly a benefit having a light-colored dog. I have one tan and one black, luckily both short haired. It’s so much harder on dark fur. New puppies are so sensitive so the benefit of daily tick checks is also desensitizing to your touch. Your puppy will be used to you touching every crevice. Plus plus!
Great article! Also good to be extra vigilant this year with Powassan virus on the rise as well -https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Powassan_virus
Agreed! All tick-borne illness can be avoided with proper prevention.
It’s so important to understand the complications ticks can cause humans and pets. I must say that I had not thought about using a lint roller before and will definitely do this from now on! Thanks for the tips and promoting this important topic we should all be aware of.
I hope this information is helpful! I see and am in contact with ticks every day, working on horses especially. Yesterday we ran out of the house without putting on our Fly & Tick Spray and wouldn’t you know, my daughter came home with one on her clothing. This is why daily tick checks are so important for yourself, your kids, and your pets.
Lola The Rescued Cat
I’ve learned so much about tick borne diseases as well as prevention from all the blogs I read. I never realized the problems with this, because I have indoor only cats. Great information.
My cat was indoor only too so I never really concerned myself with tick prevention. I didn’t realize that I was bringing home ticks to him when I would volunteer at the Central Park Zoo or just have a picnic at the park. We were lucky that nothing ever came of it.
In the rural Missouri Ozarks, where Parker Prettycat was born and her mother Smudge still lives, it’s more a question of how many ticks than if. One of our human neighbors even came down with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
Parker even knew the words “take a tick off.” When Parker moved inside, I gave her a dose of Frontline and the ticks were practically running off of her. Her current vet recommends Revolution, which is safe for cats and prevents ticks on dogs, and also treats worms and mites.
The other thing to be aware of is that many dog-safe treatments, such as permethrin, are not safe for cats, so cat lovers have to be sure that the treatment we use is approved for cats.
I think it is really important you note that cats metabolisms are very different from dogs and they cannot always have the same preventative tick care. I hope you will be able to attend the 2018 BlogPaws conference so that we can meet and trade stories.
It’s always a tough one. I use the natural based spray on myself and the wee tiny one in urban settings. But once in the mountains and hiking I DO add a flee and tick collar to him. I hate it but it’s so far been the ONLY thing that has kept them off. He’s 8″ off the ground so easy target. And at only 3.5 pounds Lyme would be horribly fast to take hold. The topical drops burn his skin so no can do and his tummy can’t take the ingestible stuff. Lesser evil situation.
Sonja it really comes down to what is best for your pet in the long run and I think you are taking the right approach. Small, long-haired pets are at greater risk for ticks and tick-borne illnesses because you can’t always detect them in time. Luckily he has the beautiful light fur that will help you spot any invaders for sure!
Ticks are creepy. There I said it * shudders * How horrible, but how great there are ways and means of combatting the evil little beasts in a safe and natural way!
We have not had issues with ticks in our cats even though they like the outdoors, but I keep an eye on them, just in case!
I’m definitely not a fan. I respect all animals, but spiders and ticks I respect from a lot of distance. Ugh. The less I ever see a tick the better!
Ticks are so gross! They’re not terribly common here unless you’re hiking up in the mountains. And Mr. N gets bathed and combed after hikes generally.
I’m in total agreement. Ticks are gross. I’d rather not see them ever, but sadly I pick them off horses all the time (using a tool because I do not want to touch them!). I’d be happy to never see a tick again!
My preferred method would be having no ticks in the environment! This year, we are experimenting with the tick tag and accompanying natural topical. So we’ll see how that works or not.
I have never heard of the tick tag, I’ll definitely look into it. I’m using my Fly & Tick spray on Gonzo and Beau and it’s working beautifully. It is necessary to use it every day however so you have to keep on top of it.
Beth | Daily Dog Tag
I give my dogs a topical treatment because we are in area with a high tick infestation. One of my dogs tested positive for Lyme Disease, but she hasn’t had any symptoms.
We have a lot of ticks here too, which is unfortunate. The horse I ride and many others have Lyme disease and complications from it. I’m so glad your dog doesn’t have any symptoms.
The Daily Pip
My husband had lyme a few years ago so I’m pretty paranoid about ticks. I had never heard that it usually takes 36 hours for bacteria to transfer – definitely makes daily tick checks a necessity.
I hope your husband was treated successfully. It’s true that being bitten isn’t enough to transfer potential disease. So there is hope with these daily checks.
I HATE ticks and other creepy crawly creatures! We have fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes year round. I’m lucky the girls are indoor only, but I can bring things inside on my pants or shoes.
Very true, I forgot to spray my daughter the other day and she brought home a tick from the barn. Luckily I found it quickly and we were able to give it a Viking funeral in the toilet.
Great info. I just Pinned over on my Bark About board to share and refer back to. Ticks are horrendous and this year is already on alert, for Lyme and now Powassan. My one Husky, who I use preventative on, tested positive for ehrlichia, which is transmitted by a tick. Ick. Thanks for this important and timely post.
Thank you for the share! Prevention is so important and the more people that know the better. I hope it is helpful.