Ask not for whom the tick waits
Ticks don't die easily and and as far as we can tell, they never get bored A tick can sit month after month on the end of a twig patiently waiting for you or your dog to pass by. If no suitable host comes along before freezing weather, the tick crawls away to shelter and comes back again when it warms up a little. Now that we have Lyme disease to worry about, ticks are more than just a repulsive annoyance.
The Lyme Disease organism normally lives in mice. Ticks bite infected mice and later transmit the disease to other animals, including people and dogs. In our area, whenever we see a dog with unexplained lameness we must consider Lyme Disease as a possible cause, particularly if the dog has a fever and one or more joints are swollen and tender. Left untreated, Lyme disease plays havoc with the immune system, causing a severe form of arthritis and occasionally heart or neurological problems
Tick paralysis happens mostly in the springtime. It is caused by tick bites, especially near the neck or shoulders. Paralysis begins in your dog's hind legs. When you first notice it, s/he may be wobbly in the rear end or even completely unable to walk. Strangely, the front legs work fine at this stage. The dog is bright, alert and not in pain. Later, dogs lose the ability to use their front legs and can even become unconscious and die from respiratory paralysis..
If you notice early stages of tick paralysis (partial loss of hindquarter function without pain; engorged ticks present), go carefully over your entire dog, removing every single tick. Signs of recovery should begin within three or four hours. If paralysis is more advanced or signs of pain are present, we need to perform a neurological examination - the problem may be something else entirely, or supportive care may be needed. Also, with the advantage of an examination table and good lighting, we will probably find more ticks.
The organism that causes Lyme Disease can penetrate human skin, so you don't want tick juice under your fingernails - wear gloves or use tweezers. Special tick tweezers are available at pet stores. Pull the tick straight out without twisting. Ticks aren't threaded, so unscrewing them merely breaks the head off more easily. When you finish, dispose of the ticks safely, clean the tweezers and wash your hands.
Because ticks are resistant to insecticides, traditional methods of control such as flea and tick collars are not completely satisfactory. Preventic, a non-insecticidal tick collar, works much better. Ticks still get on your dog, but soon fall off and die.
To transmit Lyme disease, ticks must bite and stay attached at least three or four hours. Because ticks usually fall off within an hour or two when using Preventic, the collar offers a measure of protection, although you should still have your dog vaccinated for Lyme Disease. Since Preventic collars don't contain an insecticide, they do not kill fleas, but are perfectly safe to use along with other methods of flea control such as Revolution or Frontline.
A new Preventic collar is good for about three months. In the California foothills we have our worst tick problems in the spring and fall, so put on a fresh collar when it first rains in the fall (mid October), and replace it in the spring when it begins to warm (March or early April).
Also see comments on Frontline under flea control. Frontline kills ticks reasonably well, but very slowly. Ticks usually stay attached and must be picked off individually. It seems unlikely that Frontline kills ticks quickly enough to provide any Lyme disease protection.
Bayer has a new product which combines Advantage and permethrin, an insecticide that has been available for many years and is sold in pet stores as Biospot etc.. I'm not entirely comfortable putting concentrated permethrin right where children will be continually putting their hands - or any insecticide, for that matter.