Although ticks are a year round problem, summer is often associated with seeing ticks and getting tick bites. Though not an exhaustive list, here are a few tips on keeping your pets and family tick-free.
1. Every pet, every month, all year round
Studies have shown that ticks are likely to be out in weather above 40°F. Even in northern states, there are days every month of the year that have temperatures reaching above 40°F. It just so happens that adult Ixodes scapularis, the tick species well known for transmitting Lyme disease, is most active during the fall and winter months, the time of year when most people get a little lax with tick prevention. Bottom line, the absolute best way to prevent tick bites and tick-borne diseases is to give every pet (yes, indoor pets, too!) tick prevention every month, all year round.
Unfortunately, there is no monthly tick prevention equivalent for horses right now (that’s one of the reasons NETS is collecting all this data about ticks on horses!). Until there is, regular application of a permethrin-based fly spray and thorough, frequent screenings for attached ticks are the best things you can do to keep horses tick-free.
2. Property management
Adding to the idea of prevention being the best policy, there are steps you can take to control ticks that may live around your home. Routine lawn maintenance is one of the best practices for this purpose. Adult ticks prefer taller grass because the increased height gives them a better chance of attaching to a preferred host, such as dogs, horses, and humans. Additionally, the tall vegetation helps keep the direct sunlight from drying the ticks out. Keeping grass mowed down will make your lawn less appealing to ticks.
Ticks do not fly or jump and must rely on their eight little legs to get around, so they don’t travel very far on their own. If your property is surrounded by trees, even making a 10 foot strip of lawn that is continuously keep at a very low height can create a great barrier between your family and ticks. Putting down pea gravel or wood chips around a yard can also deter ticks from crossing since the terrain exposes them to the elements. This method, along with removing brush and debris that serve as good hiding places for ticks, are aesthetic ways to limit ticks in your yard.
Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to health. Understanding the tick species endemic to your area and the diseases they can potentially transfer is an important step in protecting yourself and your animals. Talking to a veterinarian, doing a little bit of online research, and keeping up with NETS are all great ways to learn what you need to know when making tick prevention decisions like choosing a monthly tick prevention for a pet, proper removal of an attached tick, or signs of disease and who to talk to after being bit.
Be on the lookout for ticks on your horses this summer, and send them our way!