Worry about tick bites heats up as the weather warms up. But is the flea and tick pill treatment the best way to protect your Morkie?
Yesterday while I was waiting for my dogs to get their nails ground at PetSmart, one of the groomers brought out a shocking little package for another dog owner: TWO LIVE TICKS from the small dog she was grooming.
The dog looked like a Westie mix and lives in a suburb outside Toronto. Despite the fact that he only visits his own yard, he had ticks already in early May.
This is what the two ticks looked like – the one on the left was wriggling madly, and the one on the right had just supped on the host dog’s blood so is engorged with blood.
Spotting a Tick
Just count the legs!
Ticks are easy to identify: they have 8 LEGS
Only ticks and spiders have 8 legs in the insect world. Others have 6, so it’s easy to tell if the pest is a tick or not.
Small Dog, Big Danger
Ticks are bad for anyone, let alone a small dog. Here are some reasons why.
Small dogs are easy victims for ticks.
They’re so low to the ground that they’re a handy snack for ticks, who latch on to their small bodies as they pass by. And even indoor dogs and cats are not safe from the tick, because we can carry ticks indoors ourselves; then the tick sets up housekeeping, looking for a handy victim, like a small dog.
Ticks carry deadly diseases
First, ticks carry some serious diseases that can hit small dogs hard, including Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Lyme Disease and a host of others with names 12 syllables long.
Ticks can cause infection
Even when ticks are not carrying any diseases, their bite alone can be dangerous. The tick bite, filled with bacteria, can generate a nasty infection. The same bite obviously packs a bigger punch in a 5-pound dog, than in a 95-pound pet.
Ticks can trigger a bad allergic reaction
Any dog, or human, for that matter, can have an allergic reaction to a tick bite. But for a tiny dog, this allergy can turn into a life-threatening reaction.
It’s like what many schoolchildren suffer, with their peanut allergies – an anaphylactic reaction. In people, our lungs are most affected. We start wheezing and our mouths and faces swell. But for dogs, an allergic reaction hits the liver hardest. This brings on sudden diarrhea, defecation, urination, and vomiting. A small dog quickly dehydrates and could lose consciousness and ultimately slip into a coma and death if left untreated.
If an insect or tick bite sets off a reaction that bad, there’s no time to waste. Your dog needs immediate medical care, or he could die!
Tick bites can even mean excessive blood loss
Another tick danger for small dogs: a female tick can consume more than 100 times her body weight, thanks to your dog’s blood! A couple of them on your small dog can actually lead to anemia from blood loss, specifically the loss of red blood cells. This isn’t common, but if it is going to happen, it will happen to a small dog versus a large one.
But tick prevention medications are WORSE
Special EPA Warning – for dogs under 20 pounds!
Most flea and tick products contain chemicals that are “likely to be carcinogenic to humans” according to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). This appears in tiny print on the product packaging.
In fact, the EPA has identified at least 1,600 pet deaths over the past 5 years linked to spot-on flea and tick treatments.
The EPA also reports that spot-ons account “for more than half of ‘major’ pesticide pet reactions — incidents involving serious medical reactions such as brain damage, heart attacks, violent seizures, and death.
Back in 2010, the EPA warned the public about an alarming increase in adverse reactions to spot-on products. The worst reactions were found in dogs under 20 pounds.
- most adverse reactions happened in dogs younger than three years, and often happened the first time the owner used a spot-on product
- although the EPA doesn’t know why they believe some breeds are especially vulnerable to tick treatments. Those breeds are the Chihuahua, Shih Tzu, Miniature Poodle, Pomeranian, Dachshund, Maltese, Yorkshire Terrier, and Bichon Frise
- mixed breeds seem more susceptible to adverse reactions from these products
There are hundreds of pesticides are on the market to protect against fleas and ticks. These products include “spot-on” medication applied to an animal’s skin, flea sprays, powders, and collars. The FDA warns many can cause nausea, vomiting and neurological side effects.
There are five main commercial options for fighting ticks and fleas:
1. Spot-on products
2. Flea and tick collars
3. Powders and sprays
4. Oral medications
5. Preventative treatment (vaccination)
Once the pet has ticks, specialized (highly toxic) shampoos are often recommended.
A ‘tick dip’ is the worst – this is a concentrated liquid that is applied all over the dog and left to dry. As you’d expect, this is even more toxic than preventative treatments.
Ticks are a nightmare for small dogs… and the meds to protect against them are even worse than the ticks.
“All the known problems with flea and tick pills are FAR worse for dogs under 30 pounds, according to the FDA.”
Ticks are terrible for small dogs, but tick control can be even worse
Ticks are extremely difficult to control and prevent, even with the most effective products.
But what’s better?
Heavy chemicals to keep ticks away, or the risk of tick bites and possible disease?
Chemical treatments can really tax your small dog’s liver and other organs. Some products are safer than others, but let’s face it – these are powerful insecticides, formulated to poison life.
They’re simply not safe for a small dog.
If you don’t want to poison your little dog with tick treatments, how can you protect him?
The alternative to deadly tick treatments: a smart, 3-part program
Instead of subjecting your small dog to toxic chemicals cocktails, you can protect him with an aggressive 3-part program that does not include commercial tick treatments.
Start by working to remove to banish ticks from your environment and avoid going where they thrive.
Watch your Morkie very carefully for ticks – examine your dog every time you have been out for a walk and are in contact with grass.
And third, get your Morkie checked for tick-borne illnesses once a year.
Never sit on a log!
Walking in the woods? Experts say that sitting on a log for just 5 minutes means a 30% chance of picking up a tick!
Other places to avoid include:
- any areas where grass or brush is overgrown
- off-trail when hiking
- leaf litter – which can make a good home for ticks
Ticks can be anywhere
Besides your own yard, ticks can live in dog parks in the foliage or on other dogs. Wild animals can bring them near your home, thanks to your generosity in offering snacks like nuts and seeds.
And of course, if ticks ride into your home on you or your small dog, they can set up household there quite nicely. Doggy daycare and kennels are two other places ticks can thrive. You can even meet them at your Vet’s office, from infected patients!