Bruce Kornreich, Associate Director for Education and Outreach at the Cornell Feline Health Center, warns pet owners that tick season is here your pets are at risk of contracting tickborne diseases like Lyme disease, Hemobartonellosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, babesiosis, and others. He offers advice to pet owners looking to protect their pets.
“To remove a tick, use a fine-tipped tweezer, hold it near the animal’s skin, grasp the tick and pull upwards without twisting. You should never directly handle or crush a tick with your hands. To dispose of ticks after removal, place them in a sealed bag, flush them down the toilet, wrap them tightly in tape, or immerse them in alcohol. Washing your hands well after removing a tick is a good idea.
“Don’t believe the old tales about using burned matches, nail polish, or Vaseline to kill ticks embedded in the skin. Removal is a much better idea, and do it as soon as possible because there’s evidence that suggests the longer you wait the more likely it is your pet will contract a tickborne illness.
“Regular tick checks are really important for pets and humans. To find ticks on your cat or dog, you will have to feel them all over with your fingers. It’s a lot harder to find ticks on long haired animals than short haired animals. Often people won’t find them until they’ve taken a blood meal, which makes them larger and more conspicuous.
“If the tick is engorged with blood, then it’s been feeding for a while and it’s more likely that your pet could contract a tickborne illness. You can preserve the tick by taping it – with clear tape – to a piece of paper and keeping it in the freezer or preserve it in a small container of rubbing alcohol. If your pet becomes sick in the following weeks or months, your vet may be able to identify the tick, and that may provide information about the possible diseases involved.
“Lyme disease has never been seen in cats except in a laboratory setting when they’ve been deliberately infected. But in dogs, Lyme disease is one of the most common tickborne illnesses. Lameness is often the first sign of Lyme infection, and if your dog becomes lame during tick season you should be doubly suspicious of the possibility of Lyme. Other signs of infection include lethargy and fever.
“It’s important to be proactive about preventing tick infestation for the sake of your pet and for your own health. These diseases don’t just effect animals – they effect humans, too.
“There are a variety of products that you can use to protect your pet from tick infestation. Speak to your veterinarian about the pros and cons of each of these choices.”
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