I recently had the opportunity to speak with veterinarian, Dr. Ruth MacPete, "The Pet Vet" to discuss steps we can take to prevent tick-borne illnesses in our pets and family members.
Veterinarian, Dr. Ruth MacPete, "The Pet Vet" appeared regularly on San Diego's NBC affiliate KNSD and contributes to Cat Fancy and Bark Magazines. Image via Dr. RuthPetVet
Candace Rose: With tick season upon us, how can we prevent tick bites?
Dr. Ruth MacPete: "Well, there's a number of different things that pet parents can do to protect their pets as well as their family. The first thing is that people should really take advantage of tick preventatives. There's a number of different products available that are effective and you can help cut down on the number of ticks your pet may bring in. You want to speak with your veterinarian further about those different products and then the second thing is you want to know what a tick looks like and how to get it off. There's a great website DogsAndTicks.com that shows people what ticks look like and the proper way to remove them. And the last thing is really taking advantage of screening tests. You want to talk to your veterinarian about screening tests for tick-borne illnesses because these creepy little critters can bring tick-borne illnesses into your family that could affect your dog as well as your family. Really, the take home message is that spring is here and that means ticks are here and we want to make sure that people are aware of the fact that ticks can bring tick-borne illnesses to our pets as well as to people and we want people to know what they can do preventatively to prevent tick problems. Also you know about screening, so that if their pet does get a tick-borne illness we can catch it early with a screening test and this is something that many veterinarians are already doing. They're doing along with their annual vaccines and annual visit. They're doing blood work that may include the screening test."
CR: I've been looking forward to this interview all weekend because I live in a rural area and we've been inundated with ticks already and I've even gotten them taking my dog for walks. Is there anything I can do for myself or is there a certain way I should be dressing to prevent them from attaching to me?
RM: "Well, obviously wearing long clothing like long pants and long sleeves. If you're outside and you're coming in contact with ticks you want to cover as much of your body as possible. That's not foolproof though, so you still want to check just like you're checking your pet. If you are seeing ticks on your pet they are a sentinel for human tick-borne illnesses so you want to really watch yourself as well as give yourself a once over; look and see if you have any ticks. If you find a tick on yourself you want to get it off right away – speak with your doctor and again great information about tick-borne illnesses DogsAndTicks.com talks about the different tick-borne illnesses."
CR: Do all ticks carry diseases?
RM: "All ticks can, so unfortunately we don't know which ones have a tick-borne illness at any given time but ticks are all over the United States and they all have the potential to carry a tick-borne illness, not all those illnesses affect dogs and humans but again we don't know which ones are carrying Lyme disease, Erlichia, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever or Anaplasmosis, so the best things is for us to do what we can to prevent ticks from attaching to our pets and also to people and then screening for tick-borne illnesses."
CR: What are the signs of tick related illnesses?
RM: "The signs and symptoms of tick-borne illnesses can be very subtle, sometimes they are non-existant. It can be as subtle as your dog is just sleepier than normal. If your dog is sleeping more; seems really fatigued; if they have a fever; swollen lymph nodes – sometimes you'll notice that they have lameness but sometimes people see nothing at all and that's where the screening tests are key because they enable us as veterinarians to detect tick-borne illnesses early when they are going to be easier for us to treat and so we can start treatment for your pet right away."
CR: How can you keep your pets and family safe?
RM: "By following preventative measures. So really being aware that ticks are out there, being on the lookout for ticks, taking advantage of the tick preventative products that are out there, checking your pets daily for ticks and then using the available screening tests that are there to help detect tick-borne illnesses."
Image via DogsAndTicks.com
CR: Do you have any additional information you'd like to share?
RM: "If anybody has any questions about ticks, use your veterinarian, they're a great resource. If you want to know more about screening tests talk to your veterinarian and for just general information about ticks, what they look like, how to safely remove them and about tick-borne illnesses DogsAndTicks.com is a great website."