Both people and pets are susceptible to contracting deadly tick-borne diseases such as the Powassan virus, which is often transmitted by black-legged deer ticks. As there is currently no vaccine available for Powassan, prevention is your best defense against infection.
The risk of infection can be reduced by avoiding contact with ticks as much as possible. Here’s how. The best way to avoid direct contact with ticks is to avoid brushy or wooded areas that have tall grasses and or dead leaves. In addition, when you are out for a walk or hike, you should stay in the center of the trails to avoid contact with wooded areas, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Using repellents will help keep ticks off your skin and clothes. When choosing a repellent, the CDC recommends going with a product that contains at least 20 percent of more DEET, IR3535, or picaridin. Applying the repellent directly to exposed skin will give you protection for several hours. Repellents should be kept out of reach of children. Parents should always apply the product to their kids, being careful to avoid contact with hands, mouth, and eyes.
Repellents that are applied to clothing should contain permethrin. It is wise to treat all outward articles of clothing, including pants, boots, socks, and even tents, to maximize protection.
Pets are highly susceptible to tick bites and the diseases they spread, especially dogs. It is important to note that not all tick-borne diseases dogs are capable of catching have a vaccine. In addition, vaccines do not prevent your pet from bringing ticks into your home. To protect your home and to protect your dog further, it is necessary to use a tick-preventing product on your pet.
It can be difficult to find a tick bite on your dog, and signs of a disease the canine may have contracted from a tick may not show up for as much as 7 to 21 days and in some cases longer. The CDC encourages pet owners to watch their dogs for any changes in their appetite or their behavior, as either of these could be an indicator that the dog has in fact been bitten by a tick.
Acaricides are pesticide products that can be used on your dog to kill any ticks that may be on them. Acaricides are available in collars, dusts, sprays, or topical treatments. Some of these pesticides work by killing the tick on contact, whiles others work after they are ingested into the animal’s bloodstream. With this method, the tick is killed when it attaches itself to the dog and begins to feed. These products should not be applied to cats without first consulting a veterinarian, as cats are sensitive to acaricides.
By being a proactive pet owner, you can help reduce the chances that you or your pet will contract tick-borne diseases. Things you can do help steer clear of ticks include checking yourself and your pets daily, especially after trips outside, and reduce tick habitats in your yard by clearing tall grasses, brush piles, and leaf litter. In addition, if you find a tick on your dog, remove it immediately.
By Trixie Dillwood
Photo Courtesy CDC, Jim Gathany