Ask the Vet

Help! I found a tick on my dog. What do I do and how can there be ticks in January?

Winter has been especially mild with a number day temperatures reaching the mid-40s. These mild temperatures pose a risk for you and your pets. Frigid winter temperatures help kill fleas and ticks. The lack of frigid temperatures could mean flea and tick season will start earlier this spring.

The tick lifecycle has four stages: egg, six-legged larva, eight-legged nymph and then eight-legged adult. Mating usually occurs on the body of a host animal. After mating, the female tick will drop to the ground to lay her eggs. Ticks spend most of their time on or near ground until a host animal passes by. Larvae and nymphs can withstand long periods without feeding. Often, the first host will be a wild animal, such as a deer, rabbit, squirrel or even a bird. Each life stage is usually spent on one individual host: This is one reason ticks are excellent vectors for the spread of contagious diseases like lymes or anaplasmosis.

Ticks in the nymph stage are most active on mild days with ground temperatures over 45 degrees. They are very small and difficult to see. They may also be infected with a disease from their last host. Adults are also active on these mild days they prepare to breed and lay the eggs that will hatch into the next crop of ticks. Most people are familiar with the Deer Tick, but Wisconsin hosts a few other species of ticks that can spread diseases to your pets.

If it you find a tick on your pet, DO NOT try to burn it off with a match or douse it with rubbing alcohol or lighter fluid. The best and safest way to remove a tick is with the use of tweezers or a tick removal device (find one at your nearest Mounds Pet Food store). Grasp at the tick as close to the skin as you can and lift straight out/up. If the tick is very large and engorged with blood, it has been on your pet for up to 7 days. The longer the tick has fed on your pet the more likely it is to spread disease. Clean the removal site with a topical antiseptic. If you are concerned about tick borne diseases, place the tick in a vial of soapy water or rubbing alcohol and contact your veterinarian.

Avoidance is the best option to prevent ticks from attaching themselves to your pet. Ticks are typically found on vegetation like tall grasses, bushes and shrubs and at the ground level living in the layer of grass and leaves, especially in the early spring. They are more likely found in wooded areas, but many area dog parks and natural areas in the city have ticks. If your pets frequent these areas, perform frequent tick checks and consider using one of the many topical tick preventatives. ALWAYS follow the label directions on tick products and NEVER use tick products for DOGS on CATS: Cats treated with tick products for dogs can suffer severe toxicity and/or death. Contact your veterinarian or vet emergency clinic right away if your pet experiences any adverse reaction to a tick preventative.

For the record, I am not aware of any oral medications that effectively prevent ticks in pets. Tick control/prevention treatments only come in a topical form or in a special impregnated collar. If you would like more information on what products are beast from your pet, discuss the options with your veterinarian.