Cool-weather Tick Alert

By Heather Kopsco, November 2015

My dog and I both enjoy the arrival of autumn. I love the cascade of warm leaf colors, and she particularly loves rooting through the newly dropped leaves, as if there must be a treat hidden in there somewhere. We’re able to take much longer walks, no longer burdened by daytime heat spikes, scorching pavement, or the constant buzz of mosquitoes.

However, this time of year also brings another, less pleasant arrival: adult-stage blacklegged, or deer ticks. Wait a minute! Maybe you thought ticks were only a problem in the spring and summer? Well, they are active then. But blacklegged ticks are also a problem in the autumn. The tiny, poppy seed-sized nymphs that were nearly invisible all summer now have grown into the adult form and seem to be everywhere. These autumn days, when all other bloodsuckers are pretty much gone, adult blacklegged ticks can be found spending their days at the tops of tall grasses and low shrubs, legs outstretched, and waiting for a potential host to brush by.

The females are particularly dangerous to you as well as your pup. It’s currently estimated that around 50 percent of female blacklegged ticks are infected with the Lyme disease bacteria in the New England, mid-Atlantic and Upper Midwestern states, and the likelihood of transmission and infection increases the longer she’s attached and feeding. A lower proportion (about 15 percent) of these same ticks are infected in the southeastern and south-central states. And don’t be surprised if you see what looks like two types of tick on you or your pet. The all-black tick you may see is a male, usually just crawling around. He’s not interested in feeding (he’s only looking for the ladies). In addition to the Lyme disease bacteria, blacklegged ticks are also known carriers of the agent that causes canine anaplasmosis, another nasty pathogen that causes lethargy, lameness and fever in dogs.

While ticks pose a serious risk to you and your dog, they are no reason to hide indoors. A little TickSmart planning can help keep you TickSafe as you enjoy the beautiful fall weather.

Top 5 TickSmart™ Actions to Protect your Dog from Deer Ticks

•Avoid edges where ticks lie in wait.
Walk in the middle of trails, and stay on paved walkways away from the grassy vegetation where ticks are questing.

•Perform daily tick checks on your dog.
Spend time grooming your dog after every outing to remove any ticks that may have latched on. If any attached, be sure to use pointy tweezers for removal. Report any ticks found to TickEncounter’s TickSpotters program.

•Protect your dog with a quick tick-knockdown product.
There are many preventatives out there, and your dog should be protected every month of the year. Check out a comparison to determine which one is right for you.

•Make sure your dog’s Lyme vaccine is up-to-date.
The vaccine is a helpful component in the fight to protect your dog in case of a bite from a Lyme-infected deer tick (it should be noted that it doesn’t confer 100 percent immunity). Consult your vet for the proper formulation to protect your pet all year.

Create a tick-free yard.
Spraying the yard and then containing your dogs to the yard to prevent them from wandering into tick territory is a great way to protect them from tick bites and your home from loose and wandering ticks that could end up biting you.

 

Heather Kopsco, Outreach Coordinator for the TickEncounter Resource Center at the University of Rhode Island

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