Health officials are cautioning that 2017 could bring the worst tick season in recent memory.
According to Time, climate change and milder winters have allowed the tick population and the animals ticks use as hosts (deer, mice, rabbits, etc.) to survive, multiply and spread across the country.
An increase in ticks also means a rise in the number of tick-borne disease cases in humans and their pets.
To protect you pup from being on the bad end of a tick bite, we talked to PEOPLE’s Pet Vet Dr. Evan Antin for prevention and treatment tips.
Preventative efforts are always the best way to keep your pet safe. Dr. Antin suggests giving your pet a monthly medicine, which comes in oral and topical forms, that keep ticks from latching on. Preventive medicine should be given to any pet who spends time outdoors, including cats, and should be paired with daily tick checks to keep tick bites from becoming a medical emergency.
“When it comes to tick bites, you are going to find the tick. You are looking for the tick. They can be anywhere. I see them on the face, paws, neck. The most common areas I have seen them are on the bottom and the sides of dogs, near the armpits and in between their legs. Those are the areas that will be in contact with the plants the ticks are living on,” Dr. Antin says.
If you spot a tick on your pet, there are two courses of action you can take. First, you can remove the tick yourself. Dr. Antin recommends doing this only if the tick bite is fresh and the parasite can be easily plucked off the skin. If the tick is burrowed further into your pet’s hide, Dr. Antin advises bringing your pet into the vet. Removing a burrowed tick is a more delicate process; if done incorrectly, the head and mouth parts of the tick can be left behind, which can lead to infection. This is why it is best to have a veterinarian do the dirty work.
Unfortunately, pet owners sometimes don’t find a tick bite until a tick-borne disease starts to affect their pet.
“If you don’t see the tick, and your pet is starting to get sick, it usually starts out with some sort of lethargy. Your dog will be weak, tired or might not be eating as much,” Dr. Antin says, noting that lethargy is a symptom of tick-borne illnesses like Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain fever. Some tick bites can also cause temporary paralysis, meaning your pet is unable to move but is still mentally aware.
If you see any of the above symptoms in your pet, it is important to take him to a veterinarian for immediate treatment.
While Dr. Antin admits, “ticks are everywhere,” this does not mean you and your pet should miss out on summer fun. Make sure all your outdoor pets are treated with monthly preventatives for ticks and that you give your pets daily tick checks to keep them safe.