It’s getting later in the summer, but we are nowhere near the end of “tick season,” which has stretched longer and longer due to milder winters and movement of tick species into new areas. Ticks can carry diseases such as Lyme and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, so year-round prevention is extremely important! Today we are going to discuss ticks and how to keep them off you (and your pets!).
Common Alabama Ticks
Here in Huntsville, you are most likely to spot one of three different kinds of tick: the Blacklegged Tick,
the Lone Star tick, or the American Dog Tick. All three species can carry disease; in Alabama we are most concerned about anaplasmosis, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, Lyme disease, rickettsiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, southern tick-associated rash illness, and tularemia. All of these are transmitted through the bite of the tick so that’s what we want to try and prevent!
Prevention - Big Picture
The best defense is a good offense! The first order of business is to keep your home turf from becoming tick friendly. Mow frequently and clear back as much brush as you can. If possible, put up fencing that will discourage wildlife, especially deer, from getting onto your property. Deer are a major vector for tick spread, so if possible, keep them out of your yard.
In addition, do what you can to keep from bringing ticks home with you. Use repellent during hikes, and do a cursory tick check before you hop in the car to head home. Once you get home, the CDC recommends showering and a full check within 2 hours to decrease the risk of attachment to you. Since all of the above listed diseases can cause serious illness in humans, make sure you do this!
Products that Protect
The above steps will help decrease this risk of ticks at your home, but sooner or later you are going to want to take your dog for a hike on all of our beautiful trails, and they will need something that repels ticks. There are three major products that we recommend to protect your dog, and each is a little different.
Bravecto is our favorite product for tick and flea protection. It is a tasty chewable, and it provides 3 solid months of flea prevention. For ticks, the protection doesn’t last quite as long: you will get 12 weeks (or 3 months) of good protection against the blacklegged tick, American dog, and brown dog ticks. However, it only completely protects against the Lone Star tick for 8 weeks; you will get some protection after that, but it won’t be as complete as it was the first 2 months. For most dogs that only go out for the occasional hike (once a month or less), this is the best product because it doesn’t require remembering a monthly pill.
Seresto collars are another great choice for both tick and flea prevention. It comes in a collar that offers up to 8 months of protection against blacklegged ticks, American dog ticks, brown dog ticks, and Lone Star ticks. It must be fitted tightly, but not too tight (you want to be able to fit two fingers under the collar). Very occasionally, dogs will get irritated by the collar. It does decrease in efficacy if your dog bathes or swims more than once a month (offering about 5 months instead of 8 months of protection).
Nexgard is great for growing puppies as well as for dogs that are going to be heavily exposed to ticks (those that live in a wooded area or go hiking weekly or more). It is a monthly chewable pill, similar in taste to Heartgard (it’s actually made by the same company). It protects for the entire month against the blacklegged tick, Lone Star tick, American dog tick, and the brown dog tick. Unfortunately, unlike Bravecto and Seresto, it only provides protection for 30 days, which can be harder for some people to remember, causing lapses in protection.
Even with protection, we recommend doing a full tick check after taking your dog into wooded areas, as no prevention is 100% efficacious. If you have any questions about ticks, tick borne diseases, or any of the products we recommend (or any others!), please give us a call at 256-881-2482. Enjoy your summer!