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You Tick Me Off – Pest Prevention (Part 1)

Posted April 01, 2009 12:01 AM by SavvyExacta

Dealing with a cat's flea infestation or a dog's development of Lyme disease are some of the least fun aspects of being a pet owner. But unless you keep your pet locked up inside, some type of prevention is needed to keep pests at bay; then you and your furry friend can take that walk without worrying.

There are various types of preventative and repellant treatments on the market, as well as recipes you can mix up at home. Let's learn about some of the pests that attack our pets and what we can do to stop them. In Part 1, we'll discuss ticks.Part 2 will cover fleas and mosquitoes.

Tick Prevention

How can people keep tiny, creepy-crawly insects such as ticks off their pets? There are several ways, and most start with keeping ticks away:

  1. Monthly preventative treatment – application of a spot preventative makes the animal's skin toxic to ticks (and fleas).
  2. As-needed spray – commercial sprays (pesticides or with natural ingredients like citronella) can be applied before outdoor exposure. You can also make your own out of water and vinegar or Skin-So-Soft.
  3. Body check – look over your pet when he or she comes inside. Check for ticks and remove them (it takes several hours for Lyme disease to be transmitted from a biting tick).
  4. Vaccination – short-term immunity against Lyme disease is available for dogs only. Vaccinations are recommended by some vets but not others, and are not recommended by vet schools. This prevention method is not available for cats or horses, and the human version has been withdrawn from the market.

Lyme Disease

Ticks aren't just creepy; as most people know, they carry Lyme disease (aka borreliosis). Here are some symptoms that animals with Lyme disease can exhibit:

  • Cats can seem like they have the flu but may also have a loss of appetite, stiff or swollen joints, and fatigue. Some may appear dazed or can even collapse.
  • Dogs may run a fever, have swollen lymph nodes, stop eating, have trouble walking, have stiff and swollen joints, or exhibit signs of neurological disease.
  • Horses are harder to diagnose as less than 10% show symptoms. Most commonly, they act irritable and unwilling to work, and can also shift their weight from side to side.

Lyme Disease Treatment

In the event that an animal does contract Lyme disease, there are effective methods for treatment. The first step is to test for the presence of the disease:

  1. Blood test – SNAP, ELISA, and Western Blot tests are used; some animals may test positive but act healthy and show no signs, while others may show all signs and test negative. Up to 75% of horses test positive, even though many aren't sick.
  2. Treatment – Tetracycline antibiotics helps improve 90% of dogs. Intravenous tetracycline can clear up Lyme disease in horses; however, a 21-day treatment of oral doxycycline can also be effective for some variations of the disease.
  3. Relapse – If treatment was delayed, an animal can be sick for life. It is also possible for an animal to be re-infected by a subsequent tick bite.

The barn where I currently ride has at least five horses being treated for Lyme disease. The facility is located in an area of the country where Lyme is most prevalent. Unfortunately, other than keeping the horses in a plastic bubble, there isn't much to be done except spray, check, test, and treat.

While Lyme disease isn't contagious, a tick can crawl from pet to human. So remember to check yourself as well! Read Part 2 of this series on fleas and mosquitoes next week.

Resources:

https://www.professorshouse.com/pets/cats/lyme-disease-and-cats.aspx

http://www.workingdogs.com/doc0043.htm

http://www.caberfeidh.com/Lyme.htm

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#1

Re: You Tick Me Off – Pest Prevention (Part 1)

04/01/2009 12:50 PM

I hate ticks a lot. Seeing as my kitten has a knack for crawling into dark, moist places outside, it wasn't surprising to me to find a tick on the back of her neck. It is really hard to get a hold of her because she is small, fast and scared of everything. It is hard to do a daily check on her. Thank you for the good information. Oh, and sweet title!

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: You Tick Me Off – Pest Prevention (Part 1)

04/01/2009 1:15 PM

That's for the comment, Jaxy. Ticks are annoying (and gross!) but removing them quickly is the easiest way to prevent Lyme disease. My dad's dogs always seem to have ticks. Luckily it's easier to find them on animals with thinner coats. I imagine it's trickier with cats and their thicker fur.

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#3

Re: You Tick Me Off – Pest Prevention (Part 1)

04/02/2009 1:26 AM

Ticks are a problem for our dog, a short hair dachshund. We live in a Coastal Northern California rural area and during the November to May rainy growing season we check the dog all over several times a day.

Ticks are hard to remove especially when they have dug themselves in too deep to grab with fingernails. For those situations we've found that eyebrow tweezers sold in most drugstores in the Revlon section are quire effective. To actually kill the ticks once they are off they have to be firmly crushed. Even finger force on the tweezers may not be enough. And you want them dead; not running around on the floor. So what we do is keep a capped small jar handy half filled with denatured alcohol. Take the cap off, put the tick in the alcohol and replace the cap. The tick will be dead in about a minute or 2 (these critters are tough).

Ed Weldon

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#6
In reply to #3

Re: You Tick Me Off – Pest Prevention (Part 1)

04/02/2009 11:56 AM

Ed,

Try the Tick Twister - http://www.ticktwister.com/info.html it works great. Easy to get ahold of the tick and it removes the entire tick from your pet, no worries about leaving a broken off head under the skin. They are fairly inexpensive too, I just picked up a spare for $5 and change.

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#4

Re: You Tick Me Off – Pest Prevention (Part 1)

04/02/2009 6:57 AM

The color of your pets fur has a lot to do with how susceptible they are to getting ticks, at least where I live. Ticks prefer to drop onto animals with brown fur, similar to their native diners, deer and such. I have two dogs, a field line golden and a black standard poodle. They both rumage at the fringe of the forest behind my house. For every tick the poodle gets the golden will have 10. Yes he has had Lyme desease outbreaks several times. We have tried several methods of protection and in my opinion non really work well. Yes Front Line kills them but after the have begun to engourge themselves. Tick collars are a joke. Powder does not work. The solution is constant grooming and "hunting". As for us human types I never go into the woods while wearing brown clothing.

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#7
In reply to #4

Re: You Tick Me Off – Pest Prevention (Part 1)

04/03/2009 2:39 AM

Could the difference with your dogs be to do with coat texture, rather than colour ?

The Retriever has slinkier hair, that will make it's body heat more apparent to anything it brushes against. ie when your hand is just touching the animals coat, it's closer to the skin. The reverse would be true of a curly haired poodle. Flying nasties are usually attracted to Carbon Dioxide, whereas crawlers/jumpers home in on body heat, finding their way to the nice warm blood vessels. Just a thought, but it might be interesting to compare notes with other dog owners in your area.

Ticks aren't as big a problem in the UK (see point 7 here). It's probably in part down to a lack of awareness/reporting, but mainly (I suspect) down to environment. Warnings are usually directed at people hiking, rather than pet owners.

Good blog entry, SavvyExacta.

Kris

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#8
In reply to #7

Re: You Tick Me Off – Pest Prevention (Part 1)

04/03/2009 12:32 PM

That may be true but I keep the Poodle hair pretty short in the summer, about a 1/4 inch. Far shorter than the golden. They both run together in the woods and the poodle is certainly more agressive towards crittters and will chase them for great distances.

I do recall reading about ticks affinity for brown, perhaps it was for the deer tick, which carrries Lyme. Maybe it was in a hunting brochure. I will look for it.

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#9
In reply to #8

Re: You Tick Me Off – Pest Prevention (Part 1)

04/03/2009 12:45 PM

It's curious. Flying insects have colour preference, but I'd have though ticks didn't see/jump very far, hence sight/colour wouldn't be an advantage. Sensing motion as the dogs run by makes sense, as does heat (but maybe as a secondary 'fine-tuning' type sensor). Haven't a clue what I'm guessing at, but it's fun to do so until a biologist puts me right. I'll continue reading with interest.

Kris

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#5

Re: You Tick Me Off – Pest Prevention (Part 1)

04/02/2009 9:20 AM

I have three dogs and a few cats. In north Georgia it is a daily task to de tick those dogs. My main cat is a little bob tailed tuxedo that only weighs 6 pounds. I have tried the front line on her before and although it seems to work it also seems to make her act strange the first few days after I put it on. She very seldom has a tick even though she loves to roam and hunt in the woods where I live. I think cats will remove the tick themselves in their cleaning rituals as long as they can reach them. I think a tick is just about the nastiest little bug there is in this world. Another problem pest is what I call "wolves" which are some sort of fly larvae that get on small animals. I guess they get laid on the animals by the momma fly and bore down and live off the host animal till they are mature and then fly off. It makes one nasty little abscess looking sore and seem to usually be around the neck or throat area on cats. I have removed a few of these from different cats and this is on of the grossest chores there is IMO I usually hold the cat with a pair of thick welding gloves and pore peroxide on the sore and when the little bastard starts wiggling I remove it with a toothpick or some other small pointed instrument. Needless to say the cat does not care for this procedure at all but in a couple of days they will be allot better. Does anyone know what those fies are called or have this problem with their pets?

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