Every summer I am extremely careful when taking my dog Freddy for a walk, I make sure he’s well hydrated and of course well protected from ticks. I also never leave the house without dousing myself with tick spray either. As much as I hate to say it, I’ve been attacked by the pesky parasites while walking my Freddy boy in the field across the street from my house too. When I heard I would be talking to renowned veterinarians and the nations leading parasite experts, Dr. Susan Little and Dr. Chris Carpenter about the dangers of dogs contracting tick-borne diseases such as lyme disease in October and into winter, I was in shock. Don’t ticks only attack in spring and summer? As a pet owner myself, I am so grateful to have been joined by them this week to talk about protecting our dogs and ourselves from lyme disease, and why the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) is predicting the fall of 2012 to be one of the worst seasons for contracting lyme disease in years.
Candace Rose: What makes certain areas more high risk than others?
Dr. Little: “It’s the weather factors that really contribute, and so we can’t focus it down to one factor, and the modeling that was done that Dr. Carpenter described imported another of factors that parasitologists and tick experts identified may be important. But certainly when we have a milder winter, we have more days of tick activity. The adult ticks that transmit lyme disease to dogs most frequently are active October through March, and so the milder winter allows them to be out and about, and affect dogs. The nymphal ticks that create the largest risk of infection for people (those are the immature ticks), they’re active May, June, and July, and so that’s when people are most at risk. But it’s all the same tick species, the same tick bacteria, and the same need for protection.”
Dr. Carpenter: “And your question, that complexity about what regions and why, is why it’s so important for pet owners to go on year round protection. You just can’t keep up with it. If there’s anything I would say to your pet owners in one takeaway message is parasites are dynamic and ever changing. You’re never going to keep up with them and there’s no rule they can follow about when it’s safe to go off, so we recommend year round protection.”
Candace Rose: What can we as pet owners do to protect ourselves? I know from walking my dog, it’s embarrassing to say, but I’ve had ticks myself. So what can we do?
Dr. Little: “Certainly it’s recommended to wear protective clothing when you’re in a tick infested area, so tucking your pant leg into your boots, using a repellent – a DEET or pyrethrum based repellent is recommended as well. And then routine based use of tick control on your dog actually does protect you and your family from ticks because your dogs spend the majority of their time in the area around the home and the ticks that the dog encounters in the area will be killed by the tick control product. And that’s fewer ticks that are available to attach to you or your family, and potentially transmit disease.”
Candace Rose: Well, thank you both so much. Do either of you have any additional tips or information you’d like to share?
Dr. Carpenter: “Probably the most important thing I would tell to a pet owner is make sure you stay informed, and PetsAndParasites.org is a website they can go to and see a prevalence map, click on their state and then go down to their county level and get monthly updates on what the activity is. Again, all of us are deceived or sometimes we like to believe that it’s not in my area, and these parasites aren’t active in their particular area; but if they go to that map they can find and see that there is parasite activity in their area. And that’s why they should go with their local expert, their veterinarian and figure out a plan of protection and that’s what CAPC recommends, year round protection.