By Jenny Ladd EBS Contributor
As the weather warms, it’s time to consider the parasites, both internal and external, that can affect your pet. Ticks are one of the more noxious critters: Not only do they burrow into your dog’s skin and draw blood, but they can also transmit diseases to you and your pup. If that’s not disconcerting enough, there’s one species that can even continue to reproduce in your home!
Despite these nefarious qualities, they are actually one of the least worrisome parasites in Montana. There are four major tick species in the U.S. that transmit diseases such as Lyme disease, Erlichiosis and Anaplasmosis by grasping on to your dog. Thankfully, all of these diseases are very rare in Montana, Gallatin County especially.
Prevention is always a good measure and there are many products on the market that will protect your animals from a variety of parasites. The correct product for your pup depends mainly on lifestyle.
Does your pup travel? If so, a heartworm preventative may be in order. Does he like to swim? In that case, an oral anti-parastitic is preferable to a topical one, as they do not lose efficacy in water. Does your dog frequently eat things he shouldn’t? Perhaps a product with a monthly de-wormer is in order. Speak to your veterinarian about your pup’s lifestyle and they can help find the right product.
If traveling is on your agenda, I recommend looking at the Companion Animal Parasite Council’s website, petsandparasites.org. There are interactive maps that include parasite-related disease forecasts across the United States. If your pet is already on a flea and tick preventative then it is protected in that regard, but heartworm is a serious consideration. If you are traveling to a heartworm endemic area, it is important to switch to a flea and tick preventative that includes a heartworm component, or add a heartworm preventative such as Heartguard to your current protocol.
Despite all of the products on the market, it’s possible you’ll still find ticks latched onto your pet. Should this occur, it’s important to remove the tick using a pair of tweezers or a tick remover. By starting at the base where it punctures your dog’s skin, you are more likely to get the tick in its entirety.
Should the head of the tick be left behind in your dog’s skin, it will likely cause some local irritation, and could lead to infection. Contact your veterinarian if you are unsure how to proceed.Some pets require additional medications to manage allergic responses and prevent infection.
Jenny Ladd is a veterinarian and certified veterinary acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist practicing in Burlington, Washington. She loves exploring the North Cascades with her husband Daniel, their 16-month-old daughter Riley and three dogs.