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Latest health and behavior news and advice from the veterinarians at Tufts University.

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Ticks lie in wait in vegetation for dogs to brush by

The parasite’s adult form typically migrates to the ears, neck and toes

[From Tufts August 2010 Issue]

Warm weather is prime season for ticks. The parasites can transmit infectious disease, such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, or even paralysis, because of a toxin in their salvia.

We asked Michael Stone, DVM, board-certified in small animal medicine at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, how owners can protect their dogs from ticks. His response:

THINKSTOCK

Ticks are eight-legged, blood-sucking parasites about one-eighth to one inch in length.

“Unfortunately, tick control is more difficult than flea control. Even with the use of anti-tick products, you’ll still find an occasional tick on your dog’s coat. Adult ticks most commonly migrate to the ears, around the neck and between the toes."

Limit exposure
“Ticks do not jump onto hosts or drop out of trees. They climb into weeds, grasses or bushes and wait for a passing host dog to brush against the vegetation. They lie in wait, with their forelegs extended, and when a dog touches a plant, the ticks grab hold. Limiting exposure to tall vegetation may lessen the opportunity for ticks to hitch a ride on you or your pet."

“There are several safe, effective ways to control ticks, including a collar and products applied monthly to the skin. Use extreme caution if you have a cat and dog at home. We have seen several ill cats that had been around dogs treated with anti-tick products. Whether the cat has to lick the product or simply rub against the dog is unknown. Consult your veterinarian about the anti-tick product that will work best for your pet and be sure to follow the label directions carefully."

“Although several detachment devices are available, I recommend grasping the tick with tweezers or your fingers as close to the skin as possible and slowly pulling straight out. Avoid twisting or crushing the tick. Leaving mouthparts of the tick in the dog may result in mild redness or crustiness but is usually of little concern. Applying fingernail polish, alcohol or petroleum jelly is ineffective. Direct heat, such as cigarettes or lighters, should never be used. This method is ineffective and may burn the dog.”

Adapted with permission from Tufts Veterinary Medicine, Spring 2010.

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