10 tips to prevent tick bites for your pet... and you
If your dog is at risk of being bitten by a tick, so are you. Be sure to protect yourself against Lyme disease.
Global warming brings its share of issues, among which are previously uncommon diseases, including several tick-borne diseases. Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis are all words (and pains!) we’d rather ignore, but are now sadly part of our reality, even in Quebec, and can affect both pets and humans.
To not miss out on the joys of the outdoors in the spring and summer (especially after how much we hankered for the fair-weather days during the long and cold winter months), here is our Top 10 tips to prevent tick bites in pets and humans and avoid contracting Lyme disease.
1. Cover yourself as much as possible
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants. This will prevent ticks from latching on to your skin.
- Protect your feet by wearing closed toe shoes: forget about sandals without socks!
- Tuck your pants in your socks. This might not be the sexiest look, but it does prevent ticks from slipping under your pants and, most importantly, from infecting you with tick-borne diseases.
- Wear a hat or, when possible, a full mosquito net.
2. Wear light-coloured and quick-drying clothing
- Ticks are very small and will be easier to detect on light-coloured clothes (pants, sweaters, shirts, etc.).
- Ticks are also highly vulnerable to dryness. Parasites can be eliminated by putting your clothes in the dryer for about 5 minutes. It’s preferable to put your clothes through a fast-drying cycle immediately rather than letting ticks linger. It’s important to note that ticks will survive a run through the washing machine.
3. Avoid areas covered in brush and tall grass
- Stay on marked trails when you go on a hike.
- Enjoy the outdoors safely by avoiding wooded and overgrown areas.
- Stick to sports and athletic fields with well manicured lawn. Whenever possible, make sure to avoid brush and tall grass areas adjacent to the fields.
4. Stay in the sun
Even though ticks can be found in sunny and dry areas, they are more likely to dwell in humid and shaded areas. Ticks cannot survive in an environment where humidity is below 80% for more than 8 hours. Since they congregate in humid and shaded environments, staying in the sun can limit your exposure to risks.
5. Protecting pets, children, and yourself
Prevention is easier for dogs than it is for humans. Your veterinarian can prescribe a preventive treatment that is easy, efficient, and safe, can be administered orally or topically during tick season, and will last several weeks. The choice of treatment will depend on your pet’s lifestyle.
If your dog is considered at a higher risk (e.g. if your dog goes outdoors unattended, if you live in the Eastern Townships, if you visit infected areas, etc.), your veterinarian could suggest a Lyme disease vaccine.
However, current vaccines do not ensure a full protection against the disease and must be supplemented with a prevention treatment. As a bonus, most of those treatments will also be effective against other parasites. By protecting our dogs, we reduce tick burden in environments highly frequented by humans.
Treat your clothes with permethrin, a commonly used pesticide against ticks. Be careful not to apply it on your skin! You only have to treat your clothes monthly or after every wash.
You can also use an insect repellant and apply it directly on your skin every 2-3 hours in hot weather. Great Outdoors Insect Repellent by Watkins is currently the most effective formula with a 30% DEET content. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Insect repellents are available in drugstores, at Canadian Tire, and in outdoor equipment stores (SAIL, MEC, etc.).
It’s also very important to take precautions for children, but remember that all types of pesticides and insect repellants must be used with circumspection. Take the time to read the instructions carefully and, if possible, to discuss options with your pediatrician before using a product.
6. Inspect your pets, children, and yourself
After any outdoor activity during tick season (March to December):
- Check pets’ fur before letting them indoors. Inspect their whole body (paws, neck, ears, inner thighs) to make sure that there’s no tick. Look for very small black spots.
- Inspect your and your children’s clothes to make sure you are not bringing back any ticks.
- Examine your children’s whole body and then yours to detect ticks. Pay special attention to the areas behind the knees, the armpits, the scalp, the waist, the inner thighs, and the back.
If you go on group hikes, take turns inspecting each other during breaks. The longer ticks stay latched on and the more you run the risk of contracting Lyme disease. Hence the importance to check for ticks and eliminate them before they can transmit diseases.
7. Take a shower
When you’re done enjoying the outdoors, take a shower immediately. This could eliminate any tick on you. You will also be less likely to contract Lyme disease as you will have avoided tick bites and their potential to transmit diseases.
8. Exercise caution at home
Hikes and camping are not the only activities putting you at risk of tick-borne diseases. You can also come in contact with ticks during activities around your house. Here again, make sure to check your dog, children and yourself for ticks after a period spent outdoors. You can never be too careful!
9. Create a tick-free zone around your house
- Keep your lawn mowed and well maintained.
- Create a tick barrier between your lawn and brush or high grass areas (a row of wood or debarked chips several metres large). Ticks tend to not cross this type of barrier, probably because it’s too dry.
- Add a fence to protect your garden.
- Because ticks contract Lyme disease from mice, eliminate areas where they tend to live and breed (wood or rock piles).
- Eliminate spots where ticks can be found, like stacks of dry leaves.
- Set up your play areas in the sun, away from the shade.
10. If applicable, remove the tick or consult your veterinarian
If, despite all those precautions, you or your pet get a tick bite, the most important thing is to quickly remove the parasite. Doing so during the first 24 hours is your best protection against Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases.
If your pet is affected, we recommend consulting your family veterinarian who will be able to remove the tick safely.
If you’re unable to see your veterinarian quickly, here’s the best way to remove a tick: using fine-tipped tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin surface as possible, and then pull upward slowly but firmly until the tick detaches.
If you or your child is affected, contact your doctor or pharmacist for further instructions.
Remember that your veterinarian can help you to prevent, diagnose, and treat ticks. For more information, please contact the nearest Passionimo veterinary clinic.