Monday, April 9, 2012

Protect Your Family & Pets from Ticks!

Spring and summer are great times to go camping!  No doubt about it, we all look forward to being outdoors and going camping, hiking, fishing, and more!  But, we also need to know how to protect or families and pets from ticks whether it’s at a campground, a local park, or our own backyards.  

The month of May is traditionally Lyme Disease Awareness and Prevention Month, however, there have already been reports by experts in Pennsylvania on that our tick season is off to an early start from our unusually mild winter.  The early start of tick season also appears to be true for other states as well.  Tick season has been reported in multiple places in the Eastern US to be somewhere between 4-6 weeks ahead of normal and at much heavier amounts than normal.  Unfortunately, none of those places hold monopoly on ticks, so whenever or wherever you’re outdoors you’re exposure is increased.  So we thought it might be a good idea to explain how they get on you, and what you can do to prevent it! 

Ticks don’t fly or jump.  They climb up and hang onto low-hanging vegetation and when we walk by or ride a bicycle by they stick out their hook-like claws and latch on and then they climb up on us.  So the best way to avoid tick bites, of course, would be to stay in areas where the vegetation is open or maintained below ankle height.

It’s a good idea, where possible to stay on walking trails that are mowed and if you're out hiking avoid vegetation brushing against your legs. That's not always possible, so experts recommend that people, if possible, wear long-legged pants, wear socks, and tuck your pant legs in your socks to prevent the ticks from getting on your legs.  It’s also a good idea to treat your socks and pants legs up to the knee if you're wearing long pants with products that contain DEET or Permethrin, which are probably the two best tick repellents.  And when you’re applying repellents, target your feet, legs, waistline, but always follow the directions for the repellent very carefully, especially when applying repellents to children.  It is not suggested that repellants be applied directly to the skin.  Remember, that anything applied to your skin is absorbed into your body.  So it’s a good idea to minimize that exposure to your kin.

Along with showering and a change of clothing after coming inside, experts encourage us to perform routine checks for ticks on ourselves and other family members including pets. If a tick is spotted, they recommend a person remove the tick from their skin as soon as possible with tweezers.  (There are websites that show you how (like at:

But preventing ticks from getting on our family is only a portion of the story.  We also need to apply preventative measures on our pets to curb ticks from being tracked indoors.  Most experts recommend that you contact your vet. They make several different types of medicines for flea/tick preventative treatments like Frontline.  It is placed on the nap of the neck and the body takes it in and it starts getting rid of things. And there are dips that may be used, but they can affect animals in different ways.  The decision of what to use is based on the pet’s age.  So, the best idea is to consult your vet and ask them to review the options with you, and make a recommendation to you based on your pet and circumstances.

Ticks can cause tick paralysis. If your pet is covered in ticks, they could contract tick paralysis, which as the name suggests causes severe paralysis, and can be fatal if left untreated.  We surely don’t want our pets to suffer that fate.

Referred to as "little vampires," because they require a continual intake of blood to survive and reproduce, experts urge the public to take precaution because tick-borne illnesses can have severe, if not deadly, affects if gone unnoticed.  If the tick is infected with Lyme Disease, and the pet brings it in the house and drops the tick off, the tick can then bite and infect your family members with Lyme Disease. 

According to the PA Department of Health, we can also use landscaping techniques to create a tick-safe zone around homes, parks, and recreational areas. The ticks that transmit LD thrive in humid wooded areas, and quickly die in sunny dry areas. Here are some simple landscaping techniques they recommend to help reduce tick populations.

(1) Remove leaf litter and clear tall grasses and brush around homes and edges of lawns.
(2) Place wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas to restrict tick migration to recreational areas.
(3) Mow the lawn and clear brush and leaf litter frequently.
(4) Keep the ground under bird feeders clean.
(5) Stack wood neatly and in dry areas.
(6) Keep playground equipment, decks and patios away from yard edges and trees.
(7) Ticks that transmit LD can be found on deer, therefore:
(a) Do not feed deer on your property.
(b) Construct physical barriers to discourage deer from entering your yard.
(c) Check with garden centers, nurseries, or local extension agents to learn about deer-resistant plants.
(8) Bait boxes that treat wild rodents with acaracide (insecticide that kills ticks) are available for home use. Properly used, these boxes have been shown to reduce ticks around homes by more than 50%. The treatment is similar to control fleas and ticks on pets.

And, while current stats show that the Western PA new cases are on average lower than the eastern and central part of the state, we need to be diligent to keep it that way by protecting our family and pets by following these simple practices!   

By Robyn Chilson
Tim & Robyn Chilson own and operate Meadville KOA Campground in Meadville, PA.  Robyn can be reached at 814-789-3251 or at