Sunday, Dec 2, 2012
Garza County News


Dr. Kerry Wink

Stay Ahead in the Fight

Published April 14, 2012 @ 2:03 p.m.

The arrival of spring time generally means warmer temperatures and beautiful weather making everyone want to spend more time outdoors.  Whether it’s grilling out for dinner, playing catch with your kids, or playing fetch with your dog, a pretty spring day seems to bring relaxation and happiness to most.  Imagine kicking back and relaxing on a comfy lounge chair or a gently swinging hammock in the shade of a big tree, a cold glass of lemonade nearby, and your dog napping peacefully next to you.  Sounds picture perfect doesn’t it?

Imagine yourself dozing off in the peace & quiet just to be awakened by a little tickle on your forearm.  You look to see what could be causing the sensation and notice a big old tick crawling on your arm.  I’m sure you’re already imagining what happens next. Probably involves high pitch screaming, jumping out of the chair, or falling out of the hammock from panic over this one itty bitty parasite being on you.  Now imagine being an animal with tens, hundreds, or even thousands of these arachnids crawling & biting all over and there’s nothing you can do about it.  You are totally dependant on your owner to get them off of you.  Are you seeing your pet in a different light now?

I’ve already had many clients come in for tick products complaining with the mild winter “the ticks just didn’t die off this year”.  This is actually a misunderstood myth.  Ticks can survive in both extreme hot and extreme cold conditions.  Here in Garza County, we suffer from ticks all year long.  They just aren’t as noticeable during winter since ticks like to hide in warmer spots such as inside ears or between toes.

Ticks are most likely to target your pet during walks in fields, wooded areas, and even in patches of overgrown grass in back yards.  Ticks can’t jump or fly from one animal to another.  They are silent hitchhikers waiting patiently for their next host to walk thru the tall vegetation so they can climb aboard for a free ride.  Some species stalk the host from ground level, emerging from cracks or crevices located in the woods, concrete, or even inside a home or kennel.  Seed ticks are culprits of this kind of attack.  “Seed ticks” (the six-legged stage of newborn ticks) are grayish, small ticks about the size of a mustard seed which can attack in numbers up to 30,000 at a time. Yes, I said thousands at a time!

Weak or elderly dogs, puppies, and those with health issues are particularly endangered and can die from anemia caused by a sudden influx of seed ticks. Seed ticks also attack horses, cattle, and other mammals, causing anemia, various diseases, paralysis and even death.

Ticks bury their heads into the skin to feed. A tick will not voluntarily detach until its meal is complete. DO NOT apply hot matches, nail polish, petroleum jelly, alcohol or other chemicals to the site. These methods are not affective and can actually be harmful to your dog.  Instead, slip a pair of tweezers or tick puller as close to the skin as possible. DO NOT use your bare fingers! (Contagious tick-borne diseases are transmitted to humans this way.) With your tweezers grab the tick by the head, not by the body, and pull gently without twisting. Drop the tick into alcohol to kill it. Flushing down the toilet will not kill ticks!  And please…do not squish the tick to death with your bare fingers like Granddaddy used to do.  Remember, us humans have to protect ourselves from tick diseases as well!

Because ticks can harbor more than one disease-causing agent, both animals & humans can contract multiple diseases from a single tick bite!  Major tick-borne diseases include Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, relapsing fever, tularemia, tick-borne meningoencephalitis, Colorado tick fever, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, babesiosis and cytauxzoonosis.  Even though I can’t pronounce some of these names, I can assure you ALL of these are BAD!

One of the most effective ways to keep ticks off your dog is to directly apply a tick prevention product specifically designed for dogs. Topical products like Vectra, Frontline, and Revolution are designed to be applied once a month to prevent ticks.  Another option is tick collars which offer one-month to six-month control.  Pet areas such as back yards and kennels can be treated with a topical spray or granule.  Here in Garza County many of my clients are using combinations of all these options when a tick problem is extreme.  Many find using a monthly preventative along with a collar on their dog yields good results.  Some products are available over-the-counter while others require a prescription.  But please always use according to directions!  Do not use extra amounts of a product or apply more than one treatment at the same time.  This can be harmful and sometimes fatal for you pet.

Dogs affected by tick bites can exhibit a number of symptoms such as lethargy, fever, lack of desire to exercise, decreased appetite and soreness or what appears to be arthritis in their limbs. If you suspect your dog has been affected by tick bites, get to your veterinarian immediately.  This is my number one reason for requiring blood work on ALL of my surgeries! No exceptions! I can’t count the number of times I refused to do a surgery on an animal whose blood count was too low, aka anemia.  Anemia makes the pet a high risk candidate for surgery.  Anesthesia alone could kill an anemic animal, and I won’t risk that with my patients.

When it comes to our pets, we are solely responsible for their well being and health.  I have yet to see a lone dog open my clinic door, walk in, and ask me to treat him for ticks.  If that happens, I’d either be a millionaire selling the story/video to the National Enquirer or out of business when dogs can diagnose themselves!  Start your treatment program today!  Don’t wait until you see a tick on your animal before taking action.  You will not only save yourself the hassle of an infestation, but you will ensure your pet a healthy and pain-free summer. 

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