Unwelcome Guests: Preventing Ticks and Protecting Pets as Summer Approaches

By Jocelyn Rhodes Cook, Contributing Writer
As the weather gets warmer and the days grow longer, people aren’t the only ones enjoying the change in season. Pets are enjoying the sunshine too, and “pet parents” have to be aware of the smallest of dangers waiting for their critters in the new green grass: ticks and other parasites.

Ticks and mosquitoes tend to be more of a problem when spring and summer arrive, but there are many ways to protect your pets and allow them to enjoy the outdoors just as much as their caregivers.

According to information provided by Animal Ark Veterinary Hospital, Baldwinsville, the deer tick, black-legged tick, and brown dog tick can all carry bacteria that spreads infection when they bite dogs and cats.

It’s very important to watch for signs of infection in your pet. For example, some signs of lyme disease and anaplasmosis infection from deer and black-legged ticks include fever and swollen joints. Lyme disease can also cause lameness, kidney failure, and anorexia, while anaplasmosis can manifest as lack of energy and loss of appetite in your pet, as well as vomiting and diarrhea.

Signs of the disease ehrlichiosis from a brown dog tick bite also include loss of appetite, fever, and painful joints, but in addition, depression, bloody noses, and pale gums can result from the infection.

There are antibiotics available to treat the infections, which are especially effective when the diagnosis is made early. But there are ways to prevent illness before treatment of that type is necessary.

Jordan and other dogs like him should be checked for ticks daily, given a tick collar or provided with other preventative measures to protect against ticks.
Jordan and other dogs like him should be checked for ticks daily, given a tick collar or provided with other preventative measures to protect against ticks.

Inspecting your pet for ticks daily and removing any discovered is one prevention method. Using tick repellant collars and some other products from your veterinarian are proactive ways of preventing ticks from biting your pet in the first place.

Anne Roberts, Phoenix, said her vet recommended a tick collar for her young dog, Jordan, last year.

“The collar is good for about six months,” she explained. “I never had any experience with ticks but had heard they were increasing and you really have to watch pets and children.”

This year, she said she has had some trouble with tick prevention.

“With the early onset of warm weather, they have come out earlier,” she said.

After a friend posted online that she had found a tick on her pet, Roberts decided to check out Jordan just in case.

“I immediately began to feel around his neck and head and ears as well as his body. I found two the first time near his neck and head. The next day I found another on his head. I used tweezers to pull them off,” she said.

After those incidents, she decided to make a trip to her vet to purchase another tick collar. She said he’ll need two this year, as the season will run longer.

“I worry because our yard is not greatly wooded and they were out very early. I cannot imagine what the season will be like in wooded areas,”     she said.

Roberts said the tick collar was a worthwhile purchase last year and she believes having it as a prevention method this year will prove just as successful.

“Last year, Jordan never had a tick on him,” she said.

Mosquitoes are another tiny predator to you and your pets.

The Oswego County Health Department has laid out a few “simple precautions” that can aid in reducing the population of mosquitoes around your property and lower the possibility of becoming ill from a mosquito bite.

They recommend reducing or eliminating “all standing water” and to use insect repellants to reduce exposure.

Dispose of tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar water-holding containers.

Dispose of used tires, which are a significant mosquito breeding site. Used tires are accepted at Oswego County transfer stations. There is a minimum $10 disposal fee. Contact the County Solid Waste Department at 591-9200 for information.

Drill holes in the bottoms of recycling containers that are kept outdoors.

Make sure roof gutters drain properly, and clean clogged gutters.

Remove leaf debris from yards and gardens.

Turn over wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use.

Change the water in birdbaths twice weekly.

Clean vegetation and debris from edges of ponds.

Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs.

Drain water from pool covers.

Use landscaping to eliminate standing water that collects on your property.

Cats, especially ones who are outdoor or indoor/outdoor, should also be checked for ticks and watched for signs of illness from tick or mosquito bites.
Cats, especially ones who are outdoor or indoor/outdoor, should also be checked for ticks and watched for signs of illness from tick or mosquito bites.

In pets, according to information from Animal Ark, mosquitoes can transfer heartworm larvae an infected dog to a healthy one, and the “larvae develops into worms that live in the heart and its vessels,” causing heartworm disease.

Some common signs of infection include a mild cough, a lack of interest in exercise, fatigue after exercise, as well as reduced appetite and weight loss.

There is no vaccine available against heartworm disease, but there are medicinal treatments, along with  pills and “topical preventatives” to prevent the disease.

It’s very important to keep tick and mosquito bite prevention methods in mind as spring and summer set in in Central New York, especially for your pets who cannot be on the lookout for these dangers the way their pet parents can.

For more information about protecting your family and pet family members against ticks and mosquitoes, call the Oswego County Health Department at 349-3564 or 1-800-596-3200 ext 3564.

“Porky & Buddy” of the Oswego County Humane Society answer questions regarding pet health every week in Oswego County Today.

They also provide spay/neuter services and assistance, fostering and adoption of animals in urgent need, humane education programs, and information and referrals to animal lovers throughout Oswego County.

Their office is located at 265 W. First St., Oswego.

For more information, call (315) 207-1070 or email [email protected] or visit www.oswegohumane.org