Downeast Dog News

Ticks! Ticks! Ticks! They are Everywhere!

By Dr. Judith Herman | Jul 01, 2018

Q. I just walked down my road and I found 50 ticks on my dog! What is going on?

A. Unfortunately, this is a bumper year for ticks. Though our winter was long, the temperatures, especially in January and February, were not cold enough or long enough in time to kill ticks. To add insult to injury, the snow we had only protected ticks from the cold by insulating where they live. This year I have heard from clients who have been picking ticks off their dogs all through the winter.

We have a new tick in town called the Lone Star Tick, named for the white spot on the back of the tick. Like all ticks, the Lone Star Tick can transmit diseases that are common to dogs and humans. They may transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia, tick paralysis, ehrlichiosis, and STARI (southern tick-associated rash illness). STARI has not been diagnosed in dogs, but in people there is a rash and flu like symptoms. It is treated with antibiotics and isn’t associated with joint pain, neurologic, or other chronic disease that are seen with Lyme disease. Another problem for people is the development of an allergy to red meat after being bitten by this tick. This problem has not been documented in dogs.

Remember the ticks that feed on dogs and people can carry disease and the best treatment is prevention. If you have a yard that is surrounded by woods or fields, create a buffer around your yard. You do this by mowing the tall grass that abuts your yard, or build a buffer at least 2 feet wide around the perimeter of your yard with cedar mulch. If you have a tick epidemic in your yard, you may need to hire a professional trained in non-chemical pest control. If that isn’t enough, then using permethrin spray or traps would be the next step. The permethrin traps are made with paper towel tubes with cotton soaked in permethrin. Place these traps where mice would be hiding.

When hiking with your companion, protect him by using topical wipes, sprays, or spot ons that range from herbal wipes and sprays to chemical spot ons; there are pills that are taken monthly or every three months. There are now permethrin impregnated clothes and beds for dogs. These articles come in the form of gators, bandanas, tee shirts, tank tops, vests, crate mats, and beds. I have been using a tank top on my dog and have been really pleased on the effectiveness. I put it on before I leave home or before I take him out of the car and leave it on until I get home. Once home, I do a tick check.

Another neat trick is to use a sticky tape-type lint roller. Once you have finished your walk, whip out your sticky tape lint roller and wipe down you and your dog. The tape will collect unattached ticks.

With the climate changing, we now have to protect ourselves and our companions year round from ticks. By being smart, you can still enjoy the reason we live in Maine.


Judith K. Herman DVM, CVH

Animal Wellness Center

Augusta, Maine