Cold winter weather finds many pet owners letting their guard down when it comes to ticks, but your veterinarian doesn’t recommend it. Ticks can be a threat year-round, so as long as your pets continue to venture outdoors, tick prevention is crucial to keeping them safe and healthy.

While tick activity does fall off when temperatures drop, many survive through the winter, and they have been known to emerge in mid-winter if there is a brief thaw or if adult ticks have located a protected area in which to lay eggs. Pets that are roaming outside should be checked for ticks upon returning indoors even when temperatures are below freezing.

Ticks are big disease carriers, with Lyme disease, frequently spread by the deer tick, being the best known. Ticks readily spread diseases because they feed on the blood of their hosts, from small rodents to your pets to large mammals, including humans. They don’t fly or jump, but hide in grass, leaves or debris and crawl onto passing animals. They can easily hitch a ride into your home on your dog or cat and can survive for several days while waiting for another host. And while cats are not nearly as vulnerable to ticks as dogs are because of their excellent grooming habits, they are not immune. Outdoor cats and cats that live with dogs should be checked and treated with tick prevention.

While Lyme disease is likely the most recognized disease spread by ticks, they also are known for spreading Ehrlichia, Anaplasmosis and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, all of which can make your pets quite sick. Since symptoms of these diseases can look benign or can be missed altogether, prevention is your best protection from ticks and the diseases they carry.

What can you do?

  • Check your pets for ticks whenever they return from outdoors, especially if they have been in a wooded area. Run your fingers through their fur and feel for bumps. The larger deer tick is easier to see than some of the smaller ticks.

  • Use a tick preventative year-round. Stopping treatment can leave your pet vulnerable, so discuss options with your vet, including the possibility of a vaccine.

  • Ask your vet about the benefit of screening for tick-borne diseases annually.

  • If you find a tick on your pet, seek help from your vet to remove it to avoid parts of the tick breaking off and being left in your pet’s skin.

  • If ticks seem to be present in abundance in your yard, consider appropriate pest control from an exterminator to reduce the population and protect your pets and family

Prevention through year-round treatment is the best way to protect your pets, your children and yourself. If you have questions about ticks, tick-borne diseases, or how best to protect your pets and your family from them, talk to the professionals at Lake Cable Animal Hospital.