True or false fleas and ticks are almost the same? False! As one of my veterinary parasitology teachers used to say a cat is not a small dog like a flea is not a small tick. Ticks actually are an arachnid which are more closely related to spiders and fleas are an insect which are more related to butterflies. With that said and with the amount of rain we have received so far it is going to be a great year for bugs in general.
I want to mainly focus on ticks because last year was dry and so the ticks were not too bad. But since almost all ticks are acquired from the outdoors there will be an increased risk to us and our pets. There are several species of ticks (Brown Dog Tick, Lone Star Tick, American Dog Tick, Black Legged Ticks for example) that are active at different times of year which makes the exposure months from April to November with peaks in June and July. Also the increase in the deer population in America has helped the tick population boom and reproduce at very high rates. Lastly, with only one exception ticks do not spend their whole life on their host. They instead feed then drop off, molt (grow and develop), then reattach and suck some blood!
What to do? First and foremost most tick borne diseases are transmitted after the tick has attached for about 24 hours. So close examination and physically removing the ticks with tweezers is the most important thing to do after being in a wooded or rural area.
Secondly use a tick preventative product on your dog. Assess your risk of (fleas and) ticks and then pick the most appropriate product. There are collars that can be worn and generally will last longer than a month but many do not kill fleas and care must be taken that they are not ingested by the dog (generally more a concern with adolescents). We have found that in most cases the product that is the most effective against both fleas and ticks and is the most economical is Advantix II. Go to: http://www.petparents.com/show.aspx/k9-advantix-pooch-protest .
Third make your yard less attractive to ticks. Pick up debris and brush around the edge of your lawn. Create a barrier of gravel or wood chips between lawn and wooded areas. Stack wood neatly and remove old furniture or clutter where mice might live that ticks feed on. Mow frequently, rake leaves, clear tall grasses, and maintain shrubs and bushes. Discourage deer. Use pesticide at and beyond your perimeter (I.E. Bayer Advanced Home Pest Control).
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We hope everyone has great summer with lots of fun outdoors and it is as tick free as possible.