Despite the chilly New England spring weather, plenty of our clients are finding ticks on their pets. Not only are these insidious pests unpleasant, but there is much about them most people don’t understand. There are many different species in New England so it is best to consult with your vet on the best way to keep your dogs and cats safe.
DISPELLING THE MYTHS
Ticks Die After the First Frost
Not True! As long as temperatures are not below freezing, deer ticks remain active throughout the winter and into spring. Other species, such as the Lone Star tick and the American dog tick, don’t die off at all, they just become dormant in the colder temperatures and become active again as soon as temps start to creep up.
Big Ticks Aren’t a Problem
The largest ticks are those that are in the adult phase. It is these adults that transmit Lyme disease. In fact, the Black-legged tick, which is also known as the “deer” tick, is the largest tick in North America. Estimates suggest that more than half of all deer ticks are infected with Lyme disease causing bacteria.
Ticks Are More Active in the Summer
If weather conditions are right, the adult Black-legged deer tick is active all year long. The adult stages of the Black-legged deer tick are most active during seasonal weather changes between summer and fall and pose the most threat during the month of October. The nymph phase is most active as the weather changes between spring and summer.
You Can’t Get Lyme Disease When It Snows
Pet owners need to be aware that ticks will latch on to a new host, first coming into the home via a pet and potentially switching to a larger host (such as a human) at any time when the temperature is near freezing or at freezing. This is their survival mechanism. Lyme disease can be contracted all year-long.
Lyme Disease Can Be Transmitted in Minutes
Actually, studies show that it takes at least 48 hours for ticks to begin transmitting Lyme disease through their saliva. Check your pets daily for ticks, especially during the adult deer tick seasons, March-June and October-December. If you check your pets and other family members on a daily basis, you can prevent transmission before it even occurs.
At your pet’s next wellness visit, ask your veterinarian about testing for tick-borne diseases, a Lyme vaccination, and tick prevention measures that are recommended for your pet. Preventive methods such as topical and oral treatments and flea/tick collars are not 100% effective but are highly advised.
If you find a tick on your pet, remove it right away. If your pet is showing signs of fatigue, lameness, resistance to movement, lack of appetite, and fever see your veterinarian immediately as your pet may have a tick-borne illness. Antibiotic treatment is very effective particularly when treatment starts early.