Tuesday, March 31, 2009


OH, UGH! Sunday night I found the first tick of the season attached to the inside of Cory's ear. No matter how long I have been in practice, ticks still give me the heebie-jeebies! Today I had my first client dog with a partially engorged tick, so I don't think the one on Cory was fluke.

It is earlier than I usually see them; with my dogs I usually start noticing them in April when we are out tracking in tall grass and especially along fencelines at the edges of fields where trees grow. Generally May and June are the worst months for finding them on dogs in the clinic, although in more rural areas they are seen all summer long. However, Cory insists on "doing his business" right at the edge of the woods at the bottom of the yard, (that's "his spot" in the picture above) and lately there have been lots of critters to flush out and he has been running into the woods a bit (he KNOWS he's not supposed to, but...). I leave the woods and underbrush untouched as it is habitat for the birds and other animals. Which, I suppose, includes ticks! Also today I planted some flowers in my front planters, weeded my flower beds and pulled out some dead plants, and raked out some of the dead leaves that had accumulated in the flower beds over the winter. When I came in I kept feeling creepy crawly, but I kept telling myself it was too early for ticks. WRONG!

Tall grass, underbrush, dead leaves...

all are perfect tick habitat. The best prevention I have found for ticks is Frontline Topspot. Tick protection lasts for approximately a month. According to the company, it will not prevent ticks from attaching, but it will kill them before they engorge. What I have found on my own, longhaired dogs, is that if I keep up with the topspot I rarely to never find a tick attached, but I may find them crawling on top of their fur. I guess they don't want to get down close to the skin where the topspot is. Last year we were doing a lot of tracking in the spring during the height of tick season. I KNOW the frontline worked well, because I kept finding ticks on ME, but none attached to the dogs and only one or two all season on top of the fur. Remember that you should not bath your dog for 2 days before or after putting on the topspot. Here is a link to the company's website for more info:

Ticks can also carry diseases such as Lyme disease, Ehrlichia, Babesia, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. I don't see a lot of tickborne disease in my area, but I did have a dog who spent part of the year in New York state a couple of years ago that was tentatively diagnosed with Babesia. I also had a client with a tracking dog who exhibited symptoms of tickborne disease. He came in one day feverish, walking as if on eggs, and looking like every joint in his body ached. In addition, I was NOT his favorite person, and the fact that he was hurting but felt too bad to even object to an exam was an indicator of just how sick he was. Tickborne titers were a little equivocal, but suggestive of possible Ehrlichia. Based on his response to treatment, we are fairly sure that he had contracted this disease from a tick on one of his tracking expeditions. Interestingly enough, his owner had been noticing some similar symptoms in herself and was eventually treated for Lyme disease. This dog recovered from the Ehrlichia, but had some pre-existing health issues that worsened as a result of his not being able to move around much while he was sick and he eventually was euthanized as these deteriorated.

So it is official- tick season has opened, stock up on your Topspot and make sure to check yourself for ticks after working in the yard. Ick, ick, ick, nothing worse than a tick!


  1. Uuugh!! We've had clients coming in for a few WEEKS with ticks! I couldnt believe it either! Very early this year...and just when I got home today, there was a mosquito on my door! Those too?!?!? Yeeccchhh...it looks like our walks in the woods have stopped until the heat of summer (the ticks die off around here from mid July-Ausgust, and then return late September and October). Take care, and Sheltie Hugs!
    Sheltie-Mom Jenn, Heidi and Shelby

  2. Gross, gross and double gross. We don't get ticks up here in the great white North. The worst I've seen was when we attended the ASSA National in Boston. They were EVERYWHERE. I swear they were jumping out of the trees. I even got one on me and almost passed out at the realization!!

    Living in the frozen North does have its advantages....

    Hugs, Jo Ann

  3. Hi Rebecca,
    Would you please help me with a question ? Could a dog incubate ehrlichia for 3 or 4 years before becoming seriously ill ? Or is it a disease of faster onset ? Would paralysis beginning in the rear and progressing forward be consistant with ehrlichia. Thanks very much !

  4. Ooooh, I haven't seen a tick yet, on my dogs or in my practice, but I always consider April the beginning of tick season, and started my Frontline this weekend. It is very effective - all my spring time walks end up with ticks on me, but not on the dogs. Wonder if I can dab a little behind my knees before I go out?

    Advantix is good for ticks, too, but because of the permethrins, I refuse to have it in my house. My cats snuggle up with the dogs frequently, and I don't want to risk them coming in contact with it. I saw too many permethrin toxicities in cats during my e-clinic days.


  5. You can get beneficial nematodes from a company called Constantly Growing Hydroponics that will destroy any/all ticks. About a million of them come on a sponge for about 16.00. You put the sponge in a bucket of water and then use a sprayer to "water them in" to the desired areas. they will die off if your ground gets too dry and stays that way for a while. Otherwise, they just keep breeding inside all the icky ticks and killing them from the inside out. there are nematodes for fleas as well.