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Spring Into Tick Season

beagle scratching

I remember when winters in the Northeast were colder. From November to the end of March you would barely see a blade of grass. But times and weather patterns have changed and, now that it is April and the temperature is above 35 degrees, tick season is here.


If you live in Northern climates of the United States it is time to start using a good flea and tick preventative. Those living in the South are usually on a year-round flea and tick prevention. Several options are available including collars, topicals and orals. Within these categories there are many products on the market. Your best bet is with a veterinary approved product since they have been rigorously tested and proven to be safe and effective. Many of the over the counter products have not.

The benefits of a tick control product cannot be overstated. Ticks can carry several disease-causing organisms and transmit them while they are taking a blood meal. Depending on your geography, they may carry the causative organisms of several of the following.

  • Dogs: Lyme Disease, Ehrlichiosis, Anaplasmosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Babesiosis, and Hepatozoonosis.
  • Cats: Cytauxzoonosis, Tularemia, Haemobartonellosis, Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, and possibly Lyme Disease.

When choosing a product be certain to read the label carefully.

  • Dogs and cats are metabolically different and many products that are safe for dogs can be toxic to cats. Be certain any products you use for cats say they are safe for cats. Never use a product intended for a dog on cats – it can kill them.
  • Check to be certain you are getting the correct product for your pet’s weight, health status and age. Most products are sold for weight ranges, so be certain you know the current weight of your pet. Some are not safe for pets that are young, pregnant or nursing. If you have any questions about your pet’s health and the use of a flea and tick product, consult with your veterinarian.
  • Do not use more than one product at the same time without consulting with your veterinarian. Different products such as sprays and shampoos can contain active ingredients with a similar mechanism of action resulting in toxicity.
  • Do not split doses. It may seem more economical to buy a larger size and split it between two pets, but topical products do not work that way. While they are sold by weight range, they work by body surface area (BSA). BSA is not directly proportional to body weight. For example, a 35-pound dog has a BSA of 0.64 m2 and a 70-pound dog has a BSA of 1.03 m2. That means that a dog that is twice as heavy only has a 61% larger BSA, not double. Therefore, splitting a 70-pound dose between two 35-pound dogs would under dose them and not provide appropriate protection.

For those living in Lyme endemic areas, strongly consider Lyme vaccination for your dog. Your veterinarian can help you decide what course of preventative treatment is best for your dog or cat.


Tick prevention is about controlling ticks on your pet and in their environment. Controlling the outdoor environment is more difficult. Ticks need a cool, damp environment to develop from one stage to the next or they will dry out and die. Consider these options to keep ticks out of your yard.

  • Keep your lawn cut short so ticks have no protection from the sun.
  • Fence off shade producing ornamental shrubs around the house and shaded areas under porches and decks.
  • Cut unnecessary or low hanging branches on larger trees to allow the sunlight in.
  • Walk your dog at least 3 feet from the edge of the woods or brush. Shade loving ticks will usually not venture more than 3 feet from the edge of the woods into sunny areas.
  • If you need to use an acaricide on your lawn, read the label carefully to be certain it is safe for your pets. Remember this is a temporary solution since most outdoor treatments will give you a quick knock down but will not last very long due to degradation from sunlight or being washed away by rain. Squirrels, chipmunks and other rodents can also bring ticks back into your home environment after treatment.


If you find a tick attached to your pet, it should be removed immediately. Using a pair of tweezers or a commercial tick remover grasp the tick head near the skin and use gentle traction to remove, or “unscrew” the tick by rotating counterclockwise. Try not to squeeze the tick’s body as this may expel disease causing organisms into the bite wound. Folklore remedies like touching the tick with a hot match or smothering it with Vaseline® or mineral oil are not recommended as these remedies may also cause the tick to vomit into the bite wound as it dies. Also, do not handle the tick with ungloved hands as disease causing organisms can gain access through open wounds or cracks in your skin. 

As always, any questions about the benefits and use of any flea and tick control products should be discussed with your veterinarian.