Many of us are familiar with the blight that is the tick – a disease-ridden, blood-sucking pest of epic proportions. But did you know ticks are found in all 50 states in the U.S. and in every continent around the world, with the exception of Antarctica? We sat down with Jennifer Kvamme, DVM, to get more insight on how easy it is for a dog (even an “indoor dog”) to pick up ticks, as well as a few tips on preventing a full-scale tick infestation.
Play dates at the local dog park is a great way for you to mingle with other like-minded people while your dog gets to frolic about and play with other dogs in an open area. For ticks, the dog park is an all-you-can-eat buffet. They hone in on the warmth, carbon dioxide, and odors our dogs give off, then attach themselves to the skin and begin to feed. Ticks may be lying in wait amongst the shrubs and grasses around the dog park, or even on other dogs.
Whether your yard is fenced or not, chances are that animals of all sorts — squirrels, raccoons, opossums, even feral cats — find a way in and roam around as they please. Often these animals are carriers of ticks (and fleas). "The more visitors you have to your yard, the greater the chance of an infestation arriving on the back of another animal," says Jennifer Kvamme, DVM. "This is one reason not to encourage wild animals to come into your dog’s domain by leaving out offerings such as corn, nuts, and seeds… All it takes is a few ticks to get established in your yard to set up a full-scale infestation of your yard, your pet, and your home."
That's right, it doesn't take much for ticks to invade your home and move in — even a home that seems clean. Your pets aren't the only ones to blame for a potential tick infestation, either. "You and your human visitors can also be unwitting carriers of ticks," says Dr. Kvamme. "It’s easy for a few to hitch a ride on your pants leg, socks, shoes, etc."
Despite our desire to be with our dogs 24/7, it is not possible for most of us. So whether you're dropping Fido off at doggie daycare while heading off to work at or the dog kennel on your way to a relaxing vacation spot, one hazard is always possible: ticks! Your dog may be tick-free, but what about all the other animals at the facility? All it takes is one female tick to get on your dog and suddenly you can have as many as 3,000 to 6,000 tick eggs to deal with, according to the VCA Animal Hospitals.
Your veterinarian is the most important resource when it comes to the health and wellbeing of your pet. The office waiting room, on the other hand, may be full of animals that are sick and carriers of parasites, including ticks.
"Because fleas and ticks are so good at what they do, you will need to be extra vigilant," says Dr. Kvamme. "If you notice just one or two bugs on your dog, treat it seriously before it becomes a full blown infestation." Pay particular attention to the neck fur, the abdomen, and the arm "pits" of the dog, where ticks (and fleas) like to hide. Dr. Kvamme recommends discussing with your veterinarian which flea and tick preventive medication is best for your dog, as well as what dose to use and how to properly apply the medication. "It’s much easier to start early, keeping ticks from getting a foothold, than it is to try to eradicate them after they have had a chance to breed and establish themselves in your home and on your dog."
Another form of prevention is anti-pest landscaping. "For the outside, there are some plants that are known for their flea-repelling characteristics, and it is worth it to try anti-pest landscaping," says Dr. Kvamme. "However, it is often easier and more effective to use chemical pesticides and repellants for yard and perimeter treatment, especially when dealing with an infestation that is already in full progress."