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Posted: 03/27/2023

Let’s Talk Ticks

As we turn the corner into spring and the flowers start blooming, so do the ticks start biting. We want you to be prepared for tick season – even though that means different things to different areas of the country. With so many different kinds of ticks, it’s important to know which animals are at risk and when. Let’s talk all about the tick-borne diseases affecting humans, pets and livestock, and how to prevent them.

Tick burrowing into animal fur

Preventing Tick-borne Diseases

Ticks are parasites – they feed on the blood of a host animal or person and transmit diseases by biting into a host’s body. The bites become infected and can make the host ill. Domestic animals like cats and dogs as well as wildlife and livestock are all at risk of tick bites and subsequent diseases. Each host responds differently to a tick bite, but infestations can lead to long-term illness and/or economic loss.

Here are three of the main diseases that get spread by ticks:

  • Lyme disease: When most people think about diseases spread by ticks, Lyme disease is the one that comes to mind. To transmit bacteria that causes Lyme disease, a tick must be attached to a host (humans, dogs, horses and sometimes cattle) for at least 24 hours. However, the illness itself doesn’t show up until months after the initial bite. Humans often get a circular rash around the bite, but a dog’s symptoms could include fever, lameness and/or limping. They usually require a blood test to diagnose Lyme disease. If a horse shows symptoms, they may include weight loss, lameness, and arthritis, just to name a few.
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF): The CDC says RMSF is the most deadly tick-borne disease in the world. This serious bacterial disease affects dogs and humans (not livestock), and most often occurs in North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Missouri and Arkansas. Initial symptoms include fever, headache and nausea, but can progress quickly to a skin rash and diarrhea in a few short days. Dogs may cough, have a fever with swollen glands, and/or vomit before more serious signs of eye redness and vision problems, nervous system trouble and more.
  • Anaplasmosis: This disease is becoming a large problem in the midwest region with cattle, though it can also affect humans. Anaplasmosis occurs when intracellular bacteria invade an animal’s red blood cells. The infection leads to fever and anemia, and the older the cattle the more severe the disease. According to Merck, up to 17 different tick species have transmitted Anaplasmosis.
Most ticks are more active in hotter months, so creating a prevention strategy from spring to fall is important to prevent the spread of diseases with potentially dangerous health (and financial) consequences.

Kinds of Ticks

Did you know there are more than 90 different species of ticks in the U.S.? These pests vary in size and in behavior, but here are the most prevalent ticks with their preferred hosts:
  • Brown dog tick – prefers dogs and homes with dogs
  • American dog tick – attacks dogs, livestock and humans
  • Deer tick/Black-legged tick – feeds from mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians
  • Rocky Mountain wood tick – prefers livestock and wildlife
  • Lone star tick – prefers deer, but also attacks humans and other animals
  • Gulf Coast tick – prefers birds and mammals (mostly ruminants/cattle)
  • Spinose ear tick – attacks cattle and horses
  • Asian longhorn tick – attacks more than 15 different animals plus humans
Tick populations vary by state based on weather patterns and other factors. Find out which human-biting ticks are prevalent in your county at this CDC surveillance tool. You can also look up detailed information on ticks in each state.

Pesticides can reduce ticks on your property, but be sure to contact local health officials for specific guidance and important regulations they may have about pesticide applications. In general, regular mowing and leaf removal to cut down on tall grasses and brush will help keep ticks away. Avoid keeping any trash or junk around your property as they offer ideal places for ticks to hide.

Tick Twister being used to remove tick from dog

How to Remove Ticks from Your Animal

If you do find a tick on an animal or yourself, removing it as soon as possible can minimize the risk of spreading disease. The Tick Twister Tick Remover is a safe and painless way to remove ticks. Simply hook the tick with the tool and twist it out of the skin. The tool was created by a veterinarian, and it comes in two sizes – one for small ticks and one for large ticks.
To dispose of the tick, you can flush it in the toilet, dip it in alcohol, or seal it in a bag. Do NOT crush the tick or release it in an open trash container. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, and clean the area around the bite. As always, remember to consult your veterinarian if your animal becomes ill after a tick bite.

Best-Selling Products for Tick Prevention

From wearable items to pour-ons and pesticides, there are many ways to prevent tick-borne illness in humans and animals on your property. Check out a few of our best-selling products.

Dogs & Cats:
  • Seresto’s easy-to-use Flea & Tick Collar kills and repels fleas, ticks, and lice on dogs and puppies 7 weeks of age and older for up to 8 months. Avoid messy creams with this convenient collar.
  • The Spectra SHIELD Flea and Tick Medallion helps control pests for up to 4 months while hanging from your dog’s collar. The medallion is ideal for dogs 6 months and older.
  • Frontline Plus for Cats wipes out the next generation of fleas with a spot treatment that works non-stop for 30 days. For tick control, use monthly treatments.
  • Ultra Boss Pour-On Insecticide from Merck Animal Health helps control flies, mosquitoes and ticks. It’s safe for lactating and non-lactating dairy cattle and dairy goats, among other species.
  • CyLence Ultra Insecticide Cattle Ear Tags from Elanco offer up to 5 months of control in a single ear tag. They’re safe for lactating cattle and help fight flies and ticks.
  • Tri-Zap Insecticide Cattle Ear Tags are part of the Y-Tex 4-year ear tag rotation strategy. This tag delivers up to 3 months of control of ticks plus other coverage against flies and lice.
Livestock and Premises (all livestock, horses, pets)

Tick, Tock: Stock Up and Beat the Clock!

Don’t wait until you see the first ticks of the season to take action. Shop PBS Animal Health right now for a wide variety of tick prevention products for your furry friends. To compare products side-by-side, refer to the ticks column in this PBS Animal Health fly control chart. It tells you which products can be used for different species within a variety of insecticide methods including aerosols, concentrates and sprays, pour ons, and more. We also created an insecticidal ear tag comparison chart for easy reference.

You can’t avoid the outdoors, but we hope these resources help you prioritize tick prevention and ultimately protect animals and yourself.

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