The weather is warm which means it’s time to get outside with your dog! There is so much to do in the Garden State for dogs and their owners. Trips to dog-friendly beaches, hiking in state parks, and community festivals are just some of the many outdoor opportunities for you and your pup. While enjoying this season’s outdoor activities, make sure you take proper precautions to keep pests from spoiling the fun. Ticks in general are nothing new to NJ residents, but there’s a new bug in town.
In the fall of 2017, animal health experts identified a Haemaphysalis longicornis tick (a.k.a. “longhorned tick” or “bush tick”) on a sheep in Hunterdon County. This was a significant find because this particular tick is not native to the United States. So how did it get here? It’s possible the tick hitched a ride via domestic pets (i.e. dogs), horses, livestock, or humans. The cold NJ winter wasn’t enough to wipe out the invasive tick so residents will need to be on the lookout for more ticks this summer.
Besides the “ick” factor, why are ticks so bad for dogs? These pests attach themselves to warm-blooded animals to feed. Too many attached to a single animal can cause significant blood loss. Ticks also spread a variety of diseases to their hosts, including humans. For these reasons, it is important for dog owners to keep their pets on tick preventative medication and regularly examine them for hitchhiking ticks. A quick daily brushing will help your pup stay happy and healthy. By keeping your dog tick free, you are also lowering your chances of a tick using you as their next meal.
If a tick is found, make sure you remove it right away. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides step-by-step instructions to safely remove an attached tick. There are also a variety of products available to aid in tick removal. After a tick is removed, place it in a sealed container (i.e. sandwich size bag) so it can be identified. The adult longhorned tick is dark brown in color and grows to the size of a pea when full. If you suspect the tick you’ve collected is a longhorned tick, call the NJ Dept. of Agriculture so they can track the spread of this invasive species.
The longhorned tick is not the only pest to keep an eye out for this summer. The American dog tick more commonly known as the “wood tick” can be found throughout NJ. They are known to carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever along with other diseases. Another common NJ tick is the brown dog tick which, unlike the American dog tick, is a household pest. They survive NJ winters by taking up residence in your home. Ticks found during the winter months are most likely the brown dog tick. For this reason, tick preventative medication should be used year-round on household pets.
There are many resources available to assist you in identifying collected ticks, selecting the right tick preventative medication for your dog, and more. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration offers an article titled “Safe Use of Flea and Tick Products on Pets” which includes tips for safe and effective use of these products. Rutgers University offers a collection of fact sheets on ticks and other pests including the “About the American Dog Tick“, “Brown Dog Tick Control“, and “Control of Cat and Dog Fleas“. Be sure to check out your county’s Rutgers Cooperative Extension (RCE) office for more resources and help.
By Kelly Dziak, 4-H Program Associate & Chelsie Nichnadowicz, 4-H Alumna, Rutgers Cooperative Extension