Fleas & Ticks

Fleas & Ticks

This year is a bad one…. it seems that every time I look at our flea & tick preventative section it is nearly empty.  

There is an epidemic of ticks this year, and I have been asked every question about ticks, tick-borne disease, preventative measures, etc. However, the one question that sticks out is: “Why are they SO BAD this year in comparison to others?”

In our local area we are seeing an increase in deer & rodent populations, which are the frontline source of food for pests such as ticks. As these animals travel through wooded areas and neighborhoods, they are more apt to carry an increased population of ticks into our more heavily populated areas.

Some research shows that ticks need to feed somewhere between 36-48 hours before they are able to transmit disease – however there have also been a few cases of exposure before this amount of time has passed.

A more concerning problem that many within the industry are noticing is that ticks have become more and more resistant to many of the common flea & tick preventative treatments. This is causing many pet parents to further research more about these products and other options that may be available on the market.

We do want to point out that different brands or types of chemical preventatives should NEVER be used in conjunction with one another.  Severe reactions to overdoses of chemicals or interactions between chemicals can cause harm to you or your pet. Always follow package directions and advice from your veterinarian in regards to these products.

Types of Tick-Borne Disease

Tick-borne disease, also known as vector-borne disease, is an infection transmitted by the bite of an infected arthropod species such as mosquitoes or ticks.

We most commonly hear about prevention and treatment of Lyme Disease in pets. Lyme disease is transmitted by the deer tick and the Western Black-Legged Tick, and is an infection of tissues that most commonly leads to lameness. As with many tick-borne diseases, Lyme disease can be very difficult to detect due to varying signs. Lyme disease is zoonotic which means it can infect people and pets.

In humans, we often hear to look for a “bulls eye” rash near the site of a tick bite, however in canines and felines there will likely not be this sign. We need to be alert for signs such as:

  • Lameness in the back legs that shifts from leg to leg that lasts for a few days at a time
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Reluctance to move
  • Depression
  • Other signs that don’t seem to make sense, or behaviors that are abnormal for your pet are worth a visit to your veterinarian

Ehrlichiosis, also a zoonotic disease, is transmitted by the Brown Dog Tick or the Lone Star Tick. Like Lyme Disease, signs of Ehrlichiosis may not be evident, and different types of infection can produce different signs & symptoms. This is an infection of blood cells that can have an effect on bone marrow function, production of blood cells and immune function. Common signs include:

  • Depression & Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Eye & Nasal discharge
  • Nose Bleeds
  • Bruising of oral mucosa
  • Bruising of abdomen
  • Lameness
  • Joint Pain
  • Other signs that don’t seem to make sense, or behaviors that are abnormal for your pet are worth a visit to your veterinarian

There are two types of canine Anaplasmosis infection.

The first is an infection of the white blood cells that is transmitted by the deer tick and the western black-legged tick. Remember that these same ticks transmit Lyme disease, which increases the risk of coinfection with Anaplasmosis. Signs include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Lameness/soreness
  • Neurological pain, most commonly the neck

The second is an infection of the blood platelets that eventually leads to clotting disorders. This type is transmitted by the Brown dog tick. Signs include:

  • Bruising in the mouth and/or abdomen
  • Nosebleeds

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is another zoonotic disease found throughout the US & Canada. Many people here in New England think that their family or pets are not susceptible to RMSF until they hear of a local infection. RMSF is transmitted by the American Dog Tick or the Long Star Tick. If not treated early, this infection can result in death.

In regards to dogs, RMSF appears suddenly with severe illness that lasts approximately two weeks. Unlike people, dogs do not develop a rash once infected. Common signs include:

  • Arthritis like stiffness when walking
  • Neurological abnormalities
  • General malaise
  • Loss of appetite

Hepatozoonosis can come in two forms, Hepatozoon americanum carried by the Gulf Coast Tick & Hepatozoon canis carried by the Brown Dog Tick. Unlike the other diseases discussed, these two forms are transmitted by a dog ingesting an infected tick.

Signs of Hepatozoon canis infection may be nonexistent or subtle, but can include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy

Signs of Hepatozoon americanum can be more severe and potentially fatal. This form affects muscle cells, which is painful and can result in severe signs including:

  • Fever
  • Pain
  • Muscle atrophy (loss in muscle mass)
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite

Babesiosis is transmitted by the Brown Dog Tick. This infection affects red blood cells which causes anemia, during which the immune system attempts to fight off infection. As a result the dog generally becomes weak. Other signs include:

  • Lameness
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss

Babesiosis can also be transmitted if an infected dog bites another dog.


Parasites in general are seeking a host that is not of ideal health. If you think about it - humans, dogs or cats that are exceptionally healthy do not generally get sick. However, those that do not take care of themselves, eat less than ideal diets, and have conditions such as obesity, diabetes, kidney disease seem to continually get sick.

The foundation of prevention of ticks and tick borne disease is to feed a healthy diet. This does not mean to purchase the most expensive pet food on the market and your pet won’t have ticks. This means making reasonable and health-conscious choices for your pet such as:

  • Looking for whole meat as a first ingredient
  • Eliminating fillers such as corn, wheat & soy
  • Eliminating chemical preservatives & dyes
  • Eliminating sugary & starchy snacks
  • Adding water to ‘rehydrate’ dry food
  • Adding fresh meat, vegetables & fruit to your dog’s dish

Add a pinch of granulated garlic to your pet’s food for prevention of fleas & ticks. (Myth: Garlic is dangerous for dogs http://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/garlic-for-dogs-poison-or-medicine/)

Garlic is a very effective preventive supplement for tick bites. However, most want an immediate solution, while garlic can take 2-3 weeks to build up in a dogs system. Our best advice is to begin using daily for 2-3 weeks and then use 3 times a week for maintenance.

Apple cider vinegar adds acidity to your dog's blood, making it less appealing to ticks and fleas.

Cedar oil & other essential oils are great customizable options that can help repel fleas, ticks & mosquitos for your pets and your family. One of our ‘house favorites’ is by Wondercide which offers a full line of pest control for your home and family. These products do feature a strong cedar scent. Wondercide’s pet sprays can replace all chemical flea & tick options, thus making your pet and home chemical free. These products are safe for children and young pets, kill the entire lifecycle of an infestation, and are made from 100% natural human grade ingredients. You can purchase Wondercide from our website here: https://thomastonfeed.com/search?type=product&q=wondercide

A less expensive yet equally effective product is made by Natural Chemistry. This is also a great option for those who do not like the cedar scent of Wondercide. An essential oil blend with cinnamon & clove scents work well and are pleasant smelling. The comprehensive line includes shampoos & sprays that are helpful with prevention and infestation control.

Another great essential oil product line is Earth Animal Flea & Tick Program by Dr. Goldstein. This is an all natural, safe & comprehensive preventative and treatment line with a shampoo, drop, powder and spray. These can also be purchased from our website: https://thomastonfeed.com/search?type=product&q=Earth+animal+tick

Diatomaceous Earth is my hands down favorite preventative for fleas & ticks. Every year I faithfully visit our local pool store and buy several buckets of diatomaceous earth to spread all over my lawn. Diatomaceous earth (DE) is made from the fossilized remains of tiny, aquatic organisms called diatoms. These tiny particles damage the exoskeleton of parasites like fleas and ticks as they crawl through this white dust which causes them to dehydrate and die. I attribute DE to the success I have had keeping fleas, ticks & mosquitoes off of my pets and out of my house.

I live in a wooded area with a very large hay field against the back yard of my property. My fiancé and I have four dogs: a German Shepherd, 2 Pit Bulls and a Dachshund. Our regimen of flea, tick & mosquito(heartworm) preventative consists of an all raw diet, whole meat treats, DE application to our property on an annual basis & very occasional Wondercide application.

The number of ticks pulled off our 4 dogs so far in 2017: Zero.

Our 2016 tick count: 1

Lifetime flea infestations: Zero.

Lifetime Heartworm positive tests: Zero.

The best course of action against any tick-borne disease is prevention of ticks in the first place.

We carry a wide array of options both in store and online. Please e-mail us at contact@thomastonfeed.com with questions or stop in to any of our locations to see our wide array of selection.

Many of our customers are looking for products to use in conjunction with spot-ons, flea collars and oral preventatives. All of the following have no known side effects when used with prescription products – however, always consult your veterinarian prior to using these methods in conjunction with prescription methods with your pet.

A little about Nicci Cammack...

Nicci began her career in the sciences in 2006. She studied various human and animal disease through scientific writing, and worked in human pharmaceutical clinical trials for nearly 10 years. Her interest in and passion for animal nutrition began about 10 years ago with a sickly pet of her own. As a result, she met Mark Poveromo Sr., founder of Thomaston Feed, who helped heal her pet and kick start her education in Pet Nutrition. Mark is a highly educated Pet Nutritionist with a true passion for the health, wellness and longevity of our beloved animals. Nicci apprenticed under Mark for several years while pursuing additional college education and certifications in clinical pet nutrition.

Thomaston Feed holds the belief that each animal is an individual with unique nutritional requirements, and works toward helping animals reach peak health and maintain vitality through old age. Nicci is available by appointment at the Cheshire, CT location.