Let’s Talk Ticks: Tips for Staying Tick Aware

They’re tiny in size, but massive in numbers and potential for harm. Ticks. Cape Cod is home to a sizeable population and with that population comes increased incidences of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.  As we enter tick season, here are a few recommendations for keeping you, your families and your furry friends safe.

Spotting Them

Unfortunately, they can be nearly impossible to spot. In the nymph stage, ticks are the size of a pencil dot and can easily be overlooked for a freckle.  Finding a tick under all of that fur on a dog is even tougher. Give your dog a thorough check daily, especially after being outside in wooded areas.  Look between the toes, inside the ears, between the legs (in the “armpits”), and around the neck where they often burrow in the deep fur.
Also know where to expect them when you’re outside. Ticks thrive in wooded and tall grass.  Leaf litter and shrubs are among their favorite perches. If you’re walking your dog on a trail, for example, staying to the center of it is safest.

Removing Them

Using fine-tipped tweezers, grab the tick as close to the skin as possible.  Pull it with a straight, steady motion, being sure to remove the entire tick. For even easier removal, consider a tick remover tool like the TickEase. The dual tipped, stainless steel extractor lassos the tick around the burrowers as it’s removed.  After removing the tick, clean the bite using alcohol or soap and water.  You might also consider having the tick tested by sending it to The UMass Lab of Medical Zoology  This will tell you what species of tick bit your dog (or you), along with valuable data on what he (or you) were potentially exposed to.

Understanding the Signs of Lyme

Lyme and other tick-borne diseases aren’t limited to humans, they can affect dogs, as well.  And the Cape and Islands, in particular, have experienced more cases of Lyme than most other areas of the Northeast.  Signs of tick-borne disease may not appear for many weeks after being bitten by a tick, so closely monitor your dog for changes in behavior or appetite.  Symptoms include lethargy, lameness, sensitivity to touch, poor appetite and swollen, warm joints. Dogs with Lyme may also develop more serious kidney problems.  If you suspect your dog may have Lyme, consult with your veterinarian for testing and treatment.

Preventing Them

They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and we couldn’t agree more.  There are a variety of tick repellents for dogs, available in both organic and non-organic forms.  Some kill ticks on contact, while others are absorbed into the body and kill them once they attach and begin to feed.

Topical applications like Frontline and K-9 Advantix are applied to your dog’s skin and repel and kill ticks for up to a month, even if the dog swims or gets wet (although some may lose effectiveness faster if dogs are in the water regularly…something to keep in mind for the beach dogs out there!).  Tick collars, like Seresto, are also water resistant and kill ticks continually for up to eight months (Tip: To be effective they must be tight enough to make contact with the dog’s skin and must stay on the dog consistently.  If you take the collar off, even for a few hours, it may take up to 24 hours to get back to full protection).  For those who prefer more natural options, there are shampoos like Tropiclean’s Natural Flea & Tick Shampoo, which uses the power of cedar, lemongrass, clove and other pest-fighting ingredients found in Mother Nature.  Earth Animal offers another natural option in the form of a powder or herbal drop which is simply added to your dog’s food daily. The combination of herbs in the product change your dog’s odor so that ticks don’t like the scent or taste of their blood (don’t worry, the odor is undetectable by humans).

As you can see, there are many, many options available to suit your needs, budget and lifestyle.  As with anything, we recommend you do your research and consult with your trusted veterinarian.

Reduce Tick Habitat in Your Yard

The first step to reducing your contact with ticks is to take steps to keep them out of your environment.  Keep bushes, lawn and trees trimmed.  Eliminate wood piles if possible, as well as piles of leaf debris.  Also consider treating your landscape with a topical spray. Products like Bayer Complete Insect Killer, Bonide Ant Flea & Tick Killer Granules, and Ortho Home Defense are effective options.

There are also local companies that offer professional spray treatments.  The Cape Cod Plant Doctor, for example, offers both organic and traditional yard sprays that last up to 4 weeks.  Treatments should begin in April and continue every three to four weeks through October.
As always, our staff at Agway is happy to answer any questions you have about the large selection of tick prevention products we carry.  Summer is a joyous time, especially on Cape Cod, so enjoy it with your pups, but please take precautions to also stay safe and tick-free!