Prepare yourself and animals for tick season

As the weather warms up and the dreams of summer fun to be had begin to take flight, Cavalier County residents should be aware of the ticks and may want to include tick spray in their routine before enjoying outdoor activities.


Posted on 4/25/15

By Melissa Anderson

Ticks can carry a multitiude of diseases including Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMS), Tularemia, Babesiosis, Anaplasmosis, Ehrlichiosis, and the most well-known Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is most commonly carried by deer ticks, which are in plentiful numbers in this area.

“Wood ticks are seasonal; deer ticks are not. The number of ticks depends on how much rain there is and how warm it is,”  Dr. Nathan Kjelland of Golden Valley Veterinary Clinic in Park River stated.

The best way to prevent Lyme disease and the other diseases is to prevent ticks from attaching to yourself, family members or family pets.

If you are in areas where ticks may be present, the following precautions can reduce the risk of acquiring not only Lyme disease but the other diseases spread by ticks as well.

Wearing a long-sleeved shirt, long pants and high socks with pant cuffs tucked into the socks along with light colored clothing will make ticks easier to find. Walking in the center of mowed trails to avoid brushing up against vegetation also helps.

Conduct a thorough “tick check” on yourself and your children after spending time outdoors. Prompt removal of ticks, even after they have attached, can reduce the chance of Lyme disease transmission.

Insect repellents containing 0.5 percent permethrin or 20 percent to 30 percent DEET have been shown to be effective in repelling deer ticks. If such products are used, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions on the label.

If a tick is found, the recommended way to remove an attached tick is to grasp it with a tweezers or forceps as close as possible to attachment at the skin site, while pulling upward and out with firm and steady pressure.

If tweezers are not available, use fingers shielded with tissue paper or rubber gloves. The North Dakota Department of Health (NDDH) recommends that ticks not be handled with bare hands.

“Be careful not to squeeze, crush or puncture the body of the tick because it may contain infectious fluids,” the NDDH states.

After removing the tick, thoroughly disinfect the bite site and wash hands. See or call a health-care professional if there is a concern about incomplete tick removal. It is important that a tick be removed as soon as it is discovered.

If an infected tick goes unnoticed and subsequently infects a human, Lyme disease symptoms become apparent within a month of being infected. Lyme disease often starts as a roughly circular, reddish rash around or near the site of the tick bite.

The rash expands in size, often resembling a bullseye target, over a period of days or weeks. During the rash stage, or occasionally prior to the rash, other symptoms such as fever, headache, fatigue, stiff neck, muscle and/or joint pain may be present. These symptoms may last for several weeks.

If left untreated, within a few weeks to months after the rash appears, complications such as meningitis, paralysis of facial muscles or heart problems may occur. Swelling and pain in the large joints may recur over several months or years. It should be noted that not everyone with Lyme disease develops the skin rash.

While the cases of Lyme disease in humans has been relatively stable in number over the last few years, the cases in pets has increased dramatically. Owners of animals that spend a lot of time outdoors should be vigilant in checking their animal(s) for ticks.

Veterinarans in the area have seen a marked increase in Lyme disease diagnoses in pets, especially dogs.

“Lyme disease is something that owners in our area definitely need to be aware of,” Kjelland said. “The disease is carried by deer ticks which are common in North Dakota. Lyme disease in dogs can cause a fever with no known cause, limping on numerous legs, and can lead to kidney failure if it is not identified and treated. Luckily, we are able to diagnose dogs that have been infected with Lyme disease with a test in the clinic. This allows us to begin treatment quickly when we need to.”

There is a low risk of ticks being transferred from pets to their owners. Kjelland states that checking the pets when they come inside for ticks that are loose on the pet is a very important step.

“These are the ticks that could possibly move onto the people in the house,” Kjelland stated.

Ensuring all pets are on monthly flea and tick prevention is the most important factor. This prevents the animals from bringing the ticks into the house in the first place.

The flea and tick prevention measures that are recommended by Golden Valley are either the chewable pill such as Nexgard or Bravecto or a topical preventative such as Frontline.

“Many over the counter topical medications are not effective in controlling ticks for dogs,” Kjelland stated.

Kjelland explained that the concern with over the counter tick collars is that they may not protect the whole dog which allows the ticks to feed on other parts of the dog not protected.

Veterinarians in the area offer Lyme disease vaccines, and it is recommended in areas such as Cavalier County and the surrounding counties where the disease is common.

The vaccine is recommended for dogs that are at risk of tick exposure. This includes farm dogs, dogs that go swimming near lakes, ponds, and rivers and dogs that spend a lot of time in wooded areas where deer tend to congregate.

This vaccine is a set of two vaccines three to four weeks apart the first year and then a yearly booster. The vaccine can be given at the same time as the animal’s annual exam and other vaccines.

The first time an older dog is vaccinated, it is recommended to test them first to be sure that they are not already carrying the disease. If they have been exposed, the owner and doctor can decide if treatment is needed before beginning vaccinations.

For the health and safety of not only your pets but your families, don’t forget to check for ticks after a romp through the great outdoors.

“It’s a matter of knowing that they [ticks] are out there and minimizing exposure” Kjelland said.

Other vet clinics in the area are Dakota Animal Clinic located in Edinburg and Agassiz Animal Hospital located in Park River.

To contact a vet to update your pet with adequate protection from ticks please call: Agassiz Animal Clinic in Park River: 701-284-6688; Dakota Animal Clinic in Edinburgh: 701-993-8510 or Golden Valley Veterinary Clinic in Park River: 701-284-6070.