When I lived in El Paso, there were a lot of things that the dogs and I didn’t have to worry about. Mosquitoes were rare. I never saw a flea. And ticks? Well, I only saw a couple of those, and they never came back after the one incident.
When we (the critters and I) moved to Pennsylvania, all that changed. It’s a breeding ground for all manner of undesirable creepy-crawly bloodsucking bugs. Because mosquitoes are so prevalent here, heartworm tests are conducted yearly, rather than every five years as in El Paso. And let’s not talk about how many ticks there are here!
Actually, let’s. The part of the state we live in houses all four types of ticks found in the United States. Pennsylvania joins some other states in the northeast United States, along with Wisconsin and Minnesota, as having the most cases of Lyme disease reported for 2013, as reported by the CDC. Lyme disease is spread by ticks—mainly deer ticks, though it is also found in the other breeds of ticks but not as frequently—and it is a very difficult and tricky disease to fight.
It’s a bacteria that’s shaped something like a corkscrew, and acts much the same way. It burrows down into your cells in order to reproduce, and while there, the antibiotics you take to eliminate it can’t find it. Only when the bacteria comes out of the cell wall can the medicine eliminate it, and because of this you can be on antibiotics for quite a long while. Dylan could tell you a lot more about it, as he did a lot of reading and research on Lyme disease after he contracted it last year after getting four four or five bites from deer ticks. You’ll know very soon if a tick was carrying Lyme, as you will get a ring appearing around the site of the bite. Once you see that, it is imperative you get treatment right away.
I never had a problem giving the dogs their heartworm prevention, but the flea and tick stuff I was dead set against. I didn’t want to use chemicals. I wanted to use natural approaches. I tried, but it seemed every week we would find at least a couple ticks. Dylan finally convinced me we needed to get the prevention for the dogs. We went to the vet, and after a lot of discussion and advice from the vet, we left with anti-tick product in hand.
The first time applying the drops down their backs it was a two-person job. They wouldn’t hold still and it was quite the learning experience. I soon worked out a system that I could do this by myself. I plan it all out. I get the gloves so I don’t get it on my hands, pre-measure their heartworm syrup, and get out a couple cookies to give them after the ordeal is over. Then one at a time, I basically put the dogs over my leg as I’m sitting on the couch, which will usually hold them still enough for the short time that I need in order to distribute the drops down their backs. After the drops, they get their heartworm syrup, then their cookie. When the cats were still alive, it was very important to keep the dogs away from them and off of any furniture that the cats would also occupy, as the tick medicine is harmful to felines.
The drops aren’t a miracle cure-all, worry-free solution. We still have to check them for hitchhikers, but it has decreased the number if ticks we have found greatly. In a way, it’s good that last year was such a horrible year for ticks. Had there been as few as I’ve seen so far this year (only four that I can think of, though the last one was on my sock yesterday), I never would have agreed to the tick treatment for the dogs.