Beware! It’s tick season again, a time to be especially vigilant for the bloodthirsty, disease-spreading menaces.
Wait—did you think ticks died off or hibernated when the weather gets cooler? Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Here in the Northeast, adult deer ticks—the species that transmits Lyme disease—feed and mate from early fall to early winter. Then, in early spring, the nymph deer ticks wake up and start feeding. So essentially, any time from now through April, if the temperature is 40 degrees or above and the ground isn’t covered with snow, some life stage of tick is out there looking for a blood meal.
We make it even easier for the ticks by getting outside on these crisp, clear autumn days to rake leaves or take our dogs on hikes through the glorious fall foliage.
So what can you do to protect your pets?
For cats that go outside, the two best options are the following:
- Frontline Plus for Cats. Applied once a month, this spot-on kills fleas as well as ticks.
- Seresto for Cats. This collar kills and repels fleas and ticks for eight months. It has a quick-release feature that will open if the collar gets caught on a fence, tree branch, or other obstacle.
Dogs have a broader range of choices:
- Frontline Plus for Dogs. This once-a-month spot-on is a good choice for smaller dogs and those whose time outdoors is spent mainly on lawns, sidewalks, and back decks. You say there are no deer in your yard? Well, how about birds, squirrels, and chipmunks? They can bring fleas and ticks—including deer ticks—right up to your back door.
- Vectra 3D. This spot-on has the advantage of repelling insects as well as killing fleas and ticks, making it a good choice for dogs who spend a lot of time hiking or camping or in wooded backyards.
- For any spot-on, make sure you don’t apply it within 48 hours of a bath, because a bath can strip the skin oil the spot-on needs to spread over the body.
- Seresto for Dogs. This collar kills and repels fleas and ticks for eight months. The collar is not designed to be taken off and put back on, but it remains effective even if it gets wet when a dog swims or is bathed once a month or less. If a dog swims or is bathed more often than once a month, the collar should be replaced every five months.
- Simparica and Credelio. These are flavored, chewable tablets that you give once a month. In addition to killing fleas and ticks, they also kill the mites that cause demodectic and sarcoptic mange. Recently the Food and Drug Administration reported that a small number of dogs have had seizures or tremors after taking oral flea and tick products. For dogs that have a seizure disorder, Frontline Plus is a safer choice for flea and tick protection.
- Lyme vaccine. The vaccine is not 100 percent effective against Lyme, and it doesn’t protect against Ehrlichia, Anaplasma, or any of the other tick-borne pathogens that can make dogs sick, so you still need to use one of the tick-killing products described above. I recommend the Lyme vaccine mainly as “belt plus suspenders” protection for dogs who spend a great deal of time in the woods, such as hunting dogs. — Dr. Betsy Brevitz