SPRING IS HERE! AND SO ARE TICKS……
Yes, time is ticking. But it’s not that tick I’m referring to, but those dangerous critters that will soon be on the attack. Our heavy snow cover is making the calendar hard to believe, but every plant and animal knows that spring is coming. Our outdoor animal friends are getting prepared for, well, you know what.
Unfortunately this also means that ticks and other parasites are about to come out of their semi-hibernation and will wake up hungry! After over-wintering without a meal both juvenile and mature ticks will need to start feeding to get their growth processes restarted. Many ticks are not killed by our winter conditions and there will be a new crop waiting to literally suck our blood.
There are several tick species that call the Hudson Valley home with some new ones beginning to pop up in this region too. Most dangerous is the Deer Tick. We know that nearly 40% of the deer ticks in our area carry Lyme Disease and possibly other diseases as well. Other ticks carry serious diseases, such as Anaplasmosis, Ehrlichiosis, Babesiosis and others not yet detailed. Have you read about the recent death of a Kansas resident who was infected with a newly discovered tick borne disease called Bourbon Virus? Unfortunately, it’s even more dangerous than its namesake. Learn more at http://www.cdc.gov/ncezid/dvbd/bourbon/.
While all of these tick borne diseases can cause serious illness, Lyme disease is the best known. This bacterium can infect people, dogs, horses, sheep, goats and cattle. Cats seem somewhat resistant. The ticks need to attach and feed (nice term – for sucking blood) for at least 24 hours to transmit the disease. Fast detection and removal is key to preventing transmission of this disease.
How can you prevent ticks and some of the diseases they carry?
Dogs: Use an external product. Topicals such as Frontline and Advantage have never been very impressive. My patients have had the most success with the Seresto Collars and Vectra topical control products. I’ve used the Seresto Collar on my dogs for two summers now and have seen an impressive reduction in the number of ticks on them. This collar lasts up to 8 months and is waterproof. There are two new oral medications that are said to control ticks but neither is labelled for control of deer ticks. I also recommend the Lyme Vaccine for dogs which will be exposed to ticks. This vaccine has become more effective with reduced side effects. Discuss your tick control options with your veterinarian before the season starts. Many people are reluctant to use chemicals and insecticides due to possible side effects. While these may be valid concerns, the risk of contracting a disease of known seriousness seems more important than unknown risks from control methods. The herbal collars available are completely ineffective.
Horses and livestock: Most topical dips and sprays have some efficacy against ticks. Make sure the label lists effectiveness against tick species. Remove ticks as soon as possible when observed. Keep pastures mowed to decrease contact. There are no approved vaccines for livestock. The dog vaccine has been used with some apparent success in horses. Discuss which insecticide is safe for your farm animals with your veterinarian.
People: Avoid exposure when possible by staying out of tall grass and weeds. Keep lawns, fields and trails mowed. There is always a recommendation to wear light colored clothing and tuck your pants into your socks when walking and hiking. I have yet to find light or white colored hiking pants (who’d want to) and find that when I tuck my shorts into my socks it’s really hard to hike. Applying insect repellents with DEET are helpful although may not be safe for children or perhaps for adults tool. Try to remove ticks as quickly as possible. Examine yourself thoroughly after being outdoors. The CDC has a new recommendation that treating with a single dose of doxycycline within 24 hours of a tick bite may prevent Lyme disease from developing. Discuss this with your physician if bitten. There is no evidence yet that this may prevent the disease in dogs, but seems to make sense and I will sometimes use this approach with my patients. There is no current vaccine available for people . I did receive one years ago during the testing phase with no ill effects. There is discussion that one may be brought back to the market in the near future.
The clock is ticking. Now is the time to begin thinking about insect control and avoidance techniques before the season gets into full swing. Ticks carry many devastating diseases. The best way to avoid the disease is to prevent tick bites. Start planning your defense now!