Do you need to learn how to keep ticks off dogs? Each summer we hear how ticks are getting worse and spreading to farther regions than ever before. Here's how to protect your dogs (and yourselves!)…
If you plan to spend the warmer months hiking with your dog, here’s what you need to know to keep yourselves safe.
Using your RV to visit beautiful nature can be a transcendent experience, so long as it’s not tainted by dreaded tick bites. Since RV travel often involves more time outdoors where ticks thrive, it’s important to be vigilant.
Learn how to prevent these pests from making your RV their home, especially in the regions where ticks carry serious diseases. And since pets are a big reason ticks can enter your RV, learn how to keep ticks off dogs.
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Ticks: A Growing Problem!
The peak tick season is summer. And every year we hear that it's going to be a bad year for ticks. But lately, the experts are extra concerned for a few reasons.
For one, many regions have been experiencing milder winters than usual. That, coupled with increased humidity, causes a “tick baby boom.”
Secondly, ticks are being found in more and more regions than ever before.
In fact, the number of ticks and tick territories is increasing so fast that there's now a Lyme disease epidemic. (We'll get into why ticks and Lyme disease are a threat in just a moment.)
The main reason for the tick infestation is a complex interplay with animals. The birds, mice, and deer ticks like to cling to help move them to new places. And, ironically, the decrease in deforestation is aiding the spread as these animals repopulate areas that were previously destroyed.
Having more beautiful forests to explore also leads to more humans and their dogs getting bit.
So, the combination of warmer winters, more humid weather, a decrease in deforestation, and an increase in human activities creates a perfect storm for the spread of Lime disease.
Of course, a decrease in deforestation is a great thing. And exploring those forests is a gift we get to enjoy.
So, we just need to understand the risk and learn how to keep ticks off dogs and ourselves.
Where and Why Are Ticks a Threat?
Humid regions with wet winters and springs carry the most ticks, because birds, deer, and mice populate these regions. Ticks need hosts to survive, and since these animals are the most frequent hosts they are the reasons ticks spread.
Granted, ticks can appear just about anywhere there’s foliage. But when it comes to diseases from ticks, the Midwest, Northeast, and South Central regions in the US are where you need to be the most careful.
For instance, nymphal black-legged ticks, better known as deer ticks, are peaking right now in the Northeast. The deer tick has spread from Virginia to as far west as Ohio and north to Maine and Ontario, Canada.
About 25% of these deer ticks carry the bacteria that causes Lyme Disease, translating to about 406,000 new cases every year.
Even more bizarrely, the lone star tick, identified by the white spot on its back, can cause its host to develop a severe allergic reaction to red meat. Ironically, this particular tick hardly impacts Texas. It thrives in the southern Midwest and even the Northeast.
So if you want to enjoy a good BBQ that doesn’t result in a trip to the hospital, you’re going to want to read further.
How to Prevent Ticks from Biting You
As we explored a few years back, there are several strategies you should use to lower your risk of picking up one of these blood-sucking parasites.
One way is to limit rummaging through where ticks live. If you’re entering a campground, it's a good idea to ask a ranger about the area’s tick situation.
Usually, the “tick minefields” are known to be brushy, wooded areas with leaf litter and tall grasses. So if you’re hiking, pay close attention. try to stick to the center of trails and away from grassy areas.
Of course, even our best efforts to avoid can fall short. So, it's also a good idea to use tick repellants.
The Center for Disease Control recommends applying tick repellent containing at least 20% DEET. This tick repellant is safe to spray on both your skin and most types of clothing like cotton and nylon.
Another option is to treat your clothing with an insecticide that contains 0.5% permethrin. Once you apply this, you don’t need to reapply for about six washes after application.
You can even invest in pre-treated socks and clothing if you don’t want to think about this step.
It also helps to tuck your pants into your socks and shirt into your pants. Choose clothes that are light so you can easily spot ticks, which brings us to our most important step.
Remember To Do This, For You And Your Dog
On clothing, skin, and scalp, thoroughly check for ticks on yourself before heading back into your RV. This includes any equipment you brought that touched the ground. You don’t want to inadvertently bring the tick into your abode!
Shower within two hours of arriving back from the outdoors. Check yourself or have someone else give you a full-body scan. Throw those clothes you wore into a sealed place until you can wash them.
And if you have an RV washer/dryer, use high heat. This will surely kill ticks that happen to get on your clothes.
As far as doing a tick check, the same goes for your dog. While it helps to keep your dog away from those tick minefields, dog owners still need to check their dogs all over after a hike, including the dog's ears. And it doesn’t hurt to dog proof your RV!
You may need a tick comb if your dog's fur is thick; otherwise, you might miss it. Some ticks are as tiny as a poppyseed!
There are additional precautions for how to keep ticks off dogs. Before you head out on an RV trip where ticks will likely be, ask your vet about tick prevention pet products, such as a tick collar. They also come in oral medications and topical treatments like flea medicine.
However, medication isn’t foolproof. You still need to check your dog manually.
What To Do If You Find a Tick
Hopefully, it never comes to this, but there is an easy-to-follow process for removing one of these critters from the skin. Luckily, this method is the same for you and your dog.
The key is to not be too hasty and yank the tick off. Be calm and follow these CDC guidelines.
First, use relatively sharp tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible, to the point of pinching yourself with it. You can also use a special tick removal tool, like the TickKey Removal Key.
(The TickKey is one of the many great Pet Accessories for Camping that we recommend.)
Next, pull the tweezers upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick, or the mouth could break off and remain burrowed in the skin. Tickborne diseases can still occur this way.
Then after removing the tick, thoroughly clean your hands and the bite area with soap and water or rubbing alcohol.
Now that the tick is off you or your dog’s skin, you can examine it by sealing it in a plastic Ziploc bag.
To establish what risk you have of contracting a disease, you can visit the TickEncounter website to help identify it.
If that doesn’t work and you really need an answer, you can visit your state’s health department or health care facility.
You will probably never find yourself in this situation, though, if you make it a habit to use the above tick preventatives.
Do you have any special tips for how to keep ticks off dogs and keep them out of your RV? Let us know in the comments!
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