This Lyme Disease information came from new dog owner Chris McCue -
Big thanks to Lyme Disease Prevention Committee and Chris Kaldy for continuing to lead the charge. As a relatively new dog owner (since November), I’ve gotten a crash course on ticks, Lyme Disease, and related issues. Sadly, our puppy tested positive for Lyme about a month ago after getting numerous tick bites – mostly from her romps at Wheelock during the early spring months when the adult ticks were emerging hungry!
Here are the most interesting things I learned in case it can help others:
- Tickencounter.org out of University of Rhode Island is a phenomenal resource for anyone who wants to learn about issues related to ticks and gain practical prevention advice. The site contains a wealth of information, is updated regularly, and provides timely alerts (right now it’s saying that nymph ticks — the smallest that carry disease and the most difficult to spot — are at their peak). All in all, this is shaping up to be an especially bad tick season for the Northeast.
- Tickencounter.org and landscapers knowledgeable about tick control suggest skipping pesticide treatment of regularly mowed areas (like playing fields) that bask in the sun during the day and are dry (which ticks don’t like), and instead treat the perimeters of those areas where they meet humid wooded and/or brush/tall grassy areas that ticks love. (With the results of a recent study on the link between pesticides and autism on the news last night, smart use of pesticides seems even more important now.) A landscaping company that understands ticks well will be judicious with use of pesticides by limiting it to those areas that get the most human contact, such as landscaped garden beds, yard perimeters, or any other at-risk location that the homeowner frequents. (As an aside, it’s recommended that landscapers and homeowners make a point of trimming high grass that grows around the feet of picnic tables, playground equipment, etc. I’ve seen quite a bit of this at the base of the picnic tables on the lawn area outside of Metacomet tennis courts.)
- In partnership with Tick Encounter, University of Massachusetts runs a tick testing lab and publishes data on the prevalence of tick-borne diseases in communities based on self-reporting. Anyone can send a tick to UMass for testing, and at $50 per test, it’s cheaper than the private lab in Norwood. Turn around is 3-5 days for the UMass results. Tick testing is helpful for determining risk of acquiring a tick-borne disease (for humans or pets). Especially for pets that spend a lot of time outdoors, when an engorged tick is found but no symptoms have developed, a negative tick test can prevent unnecessary antibiotic use. Here’s the UMass link: http://ag.umass.edu/services/tick-borne-disease-diagnostics
- The UMass lab has also partnered with a number of towns in Middlesex and Barnstable Counties to provide free tick testing, partly so that it can study the prevalence of tick-borne diseases in specific communities. Interestingly, UMass has no Norfolk County partners, despite the high prevalence of Lyme Disease and other tick-borne illnesses in our communities.
- In addition to regular tick checks, six additional tips that I’ve personally found helpful and have been promoted by the experts mentioned earlier:
Treat the shoes of everyone in your family with permethrin spray (let dry before wearing) to prevent ticks on the ground from climbing up. The spray is available at most hardware and outdoor stores. (But don’t spray it on a windy day or when bees are present.)
Put out TickTubes (cardboard tubes with permethrin-infused cotton balls) around the perimeter of your yard – especially in stone walls, wood piles, etc. These can help break the tick reproduction cycle. Mice and chipmunks pull out the cotton and use it to line their nests, and the cotton kills the ticks that ride on the rodents. The TickTubes are made by Daminex, but not all places sell them, so people should call around. They can be purchased online.
Consider wearing special permethrin-treated clothing, hats, socks, etc. (Insect Shield is brand; it was developed the man who launched TickEncounter), especially for outdoor activity like gardening, hiking, etc. that puts you in frequent contact with tick habitat. This clothing is safer than spraying your entire body with DEET, and the CDC also recommends this type of clothing. (One interesting Insect Shield item I purchased from a hunting site: a lightweight dog vest. The dog looks a little silly in it, but it works well for off-leash play when we can’t control every step that our pup takes.)
Use your dryer against ticks. Clothing worn outside in tick habitat should be thrown in the dryer immediately on high heat for an hour (before being washed) since it will kill ticks relatively quickly (the washing machine won’t). Ticks will live for several days in the hamper, putting anyone who is doing laundry at risk. Interestingly, it was Jacqueline Flynn — the daughter of Needham-based Hartney-Greymont arborist Pat Flynn — who conducted the Braintree High School science experiment that showed how effective the dryer was. Her study made national news and the CDC has backed up her research and has been spreading the tip.
According to our vet, tick-borne illness prevention and treatment is one of the most hotly argued topics among all vets. I’ve been encouraged by our vet to do my research, ask questions, and then make decisions based on what I feel is right vs. feeling like I’m being pushed into a course of action. Opinions differ on use of the Lyme vaccine with dogs, antibiotic use for a positive Lyme test but no symptoms, benefits of regular disease testing, etc. Searching for research by reputable organizations online (e.g., Cornell University) is helpful until that research is outdated, so beware of even the most credible scientific studies. Your vet should be knowledgeable and willing to help you make sense of it all.
Hope this wrap-up of the information I’ve learned helps save others time and effort!