Ticks suck. Especially when they’re buried deep beneath your dog’s coat—and therefore almost impossible to spot.
“Even if your dog is an inside dog, you should perform a daily tick check from head to toe, no matter what tick control product you use,” says I. Craig Prior, a Tennessee-based veterinarian and president of the Companion Animal Parasite Council. He adds, “Black-legged ticks like the top of the head, ears, and along the back. Lone Star ticks like to attach among the skin creases and between the toes on the paw. But you’re not done after checking those areas. Look everywhere because a tick can attach anywhere.”
Getting ticks off your dog quickly matters because dogs are susceptible to many of the same tick-borne diseases that humans suffer from, “such as Lyme, Ehrlichiosis, Anaplasmosis, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever,” Prior says. While many of these diseases are treatable, some, like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, can be fatal if not caught and treated promptly, says Rachel Barrack, a New York City-based veterinarian.
And even though it’s summer, know that this is actually a year-round problem. “What we are seeing is that the life cycle of ticks is changing,” Prior says. “Ticks are surviving and feeding all year. This is true even in colder climates where people used to count on them dying or going dormant during winter months. In fact, if the temperature is over 43° F, ticks are active, even if there’s snow on the ground.”
All this is to say that tick prevention is important. Here’s your plan of action to keep your dog tick-free this season.
First Stop: Your Vet’s Office
“Your local veterinarian will be familiar with all of the diseases which have been documented or which are likely to be found in your area,” Prior says, adding that your vet probably has about the best pulse on what products seem to be working well. It is possible for insects to develop resistance to some pest control products, and your local vet is probably going to be the first to notice if something no longer seems to be repelling ticks.
Consider the Other Critters in Your Home
Most topical tick products contain Permethrin, which is toxic to cats. If your cat loves to groom your dog, a topical product is not going to be a good choice. Instead, an oral product, like Bravecto, is worth considering.
Read the Label
“It is not uncommon for a pet owner to be giving a flea treatment thinking it kills ticks, too, but that is not always the case,” Prior says. Make sure whatever you buy is for fleas and ticks, and particularly the type of ticks you have in your area.
Don’t Give up Your Daily Tick Checks
Oral and topical products work in similar ways in that they kill ticks within several hours of the tick biting your pet. While studies have shown it takes about 24 hours of biting for a tick to transmit diseases to your dog, it’s still worth doing a daily tick check, says Barrack. “When looking for ticks on your dog, work from top to bottom.” She adds, “some places to pay particular attention to include around [the] eyes, under [the] collar, inside [the] ears, armpits, genital region, under the tail, and between toes.” While your best friend’s entire body is worth checking, anywhere a dog’s coat is sparse or thin is at particular risk.
Consider the Lyme Vaccine
If you live in an area with large concentrations of Lyme, Prior says the vaccine might be worth giving. He recommends giving it annually. He also suggests doing an annual test for Lyme, because the disease often has hard-to-catch symptoms, and the longer it lingers, the more devastating its effects. It’s best to consult your vet on your options to keep your pup healthy and free from ticks.