Trimming grass and brush in your backyard to minimize tick habitats is helpful. A wooded home environment invites wildlife, and hitchhiking ticks, to your back door.
Your pet — and his humans — should be checked daily for ticks. A fine-toothed comb for Fido and Fluffy is essential. Immature ticks can be as tiny as poppy seeds. These are difficult to find on people, and virtually impossible to find on your furry pet. Sometimes, immature deer ticks (nymphs) will be visible on the eyelid margins of cats, appearing as tiny dark grains of sand. Nevertheless, good tick checks will reveal many ticks, especially larger adult ticks.
If you find a tick on your pet, carefully remove it. Use tweezers to grasp the tick. Do not twist, squeeze or crush it. After removal, dab the area with disinfectant and wash your hands. Flush the captured tick down the toilet to prevent it from crawling out of your trash. If this process makes you squeamish, ask your veterinary team for help.
Year-round tick prevention is recommended for cats and dogs. Contrary to popular belief, ticks survive New England winters. Effective anti-tick products are applied topically and cannot be given as a pill.
The myriad tick-prevention products can be mind-boggling. Here are some considerations during your selection:
1. Ticks are difficult critters to kill. No product is 100 percent effective. Expect to find occasional ticks on your pet regardless of what product you use.
2. Cats are not little dogs. Never use a product on cats that is labeled for dogs only. This can be deadly for Fluffy.
3. Typical over-the-counter tick collars are poorly effective. Choose something that has a better chance of keeping the nasty critters off your sweet pet.
4. Most topical tick products need to be applied monthly. However, not all will give you satisfactory performance throughout the month.