How to protect your pets from ticks this season in Michigan

By Chloe Kiple

The spread and severity of disease-carrying ticks is increasing steadily, according to a 2017 report from the Center for Disease Control.

Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever are plaguing many this season, including our furry-friends.

While there is no Lyme disease vaccine for humans, there is a once-a-year preventative shot for dogs. The shot can be administered at a routine visit to the vet, and helps prevent Lyme disease even if a tick bites. It’s a good start, but the vaccine doesn’t protect against other common tick-diseases like ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis.

"The problem is that even though we prevent Lyme disease, we are still leaving the door open for the other two tick diseases,” said veterinarian Dr. Drew Snider. “That’s the primary reason I like to recommend preventatives … as the first line of defense."

Oral pills and topical creams

Snider suggests using oral pills and topical creams. Pills come in the once-a-month and once-every-three-month varieties, but Dr. Snider says the monthly pill is the strongest. Topical oils can be applied immediately prior to exposure to tick-heavy areas. Reapply according to the package’s labeling. For best result, dogs should not be bathed two days before or after application.

Dr. Snider urges dog owners to use topical medicine on top of oral meds and yearly vaccinations for the greatest degree of protection. Preventative meds are also available for cats.

"When we’re all driving a car, you have an air bag, but you still use your seatbelt,” said Snider. “In those high-risk situations, [I] recommend several layers of protection as opposed to just relying on the single pill.”

Talk to your vet

Consult a veterinarian to find a solution that works best for you and your pooch. Some pills can be a catalyst for stomach issues in some dogs, and topical-oils may cause non-life-threatening hair-loss. While these symptoms are uncommon, Dr. Snider says it’s important to be aware of the risk. However, the biggest mistake a pet-owner can make is purchasing medication online.

"There isn’t the same regulation [online] that there is in the brick and mortar world for pharmacies and these products,” said Snider. “There have been some situations where an owner thought they were getting one product and were getting something else.”

Online shoppers are cautioned. In the worst case scenario, their purchase could be ineffective and potentially toxic. Dr. Snider stresses that dog-lovers need to do their research.

Good offense is best defense

The good news is that the best defense against ticks is a good offense. Stopping ticks in their tracks can save our beloved best friends. 

"It is a lot harder to get rid of Lyme disease after it is established in the system as opposed to either preventing it right after tick exposure,” said Snider. “If we can catch this early before an animal is sick, then it is treatable and they go on to live a perfectly normal life."

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