By Karen A. Soukiasian
It’s summer and everyone is outside enjoying picnics, hiking, camping, fishing, and other outdoor activities.
It’s also the time of year ticks are most prevalent and they’re hungry!
The tick is a small arachnid.
Ticks are in the same family as spiders, scorpions, and mites. They are disease-carrying, bloodsucking, ectoparasites (external parasites).
They live by burying their heads beneath the skin and sucking the blood of their host, most often mammals and birds.
Ticks can also be found on snakes, including pet boas!
Ticks may be found anywhere on your dog. They especially favor the neck, in the armpits, in and around the ears, and between the toes. If you don’t find them early enough, what you will find is a blood-engorged, leathery-looking body, resembling a tan-grey lima bean.
The irony is, these parasites, carry their own minute parasites, that transmit through their bite and saliva, countless microscopic organisms. When they enter the bloodstream, those microscopic organisms are what make their hosts, including dogs and people, ill.
Common ticks found in the U.S.
- The Black-legged Tick is about the size of a pinhead. In it nymph stage, it is most infectious. To identify it, look for a translucent, with a hint of grey, elongated body about 3mm long, with 6 legs (immature) or 8 legs (adult). They are dependent on the white-tail deer as a primary host. Established in the eastern coast of the U. S., from Florida to central Texas in the south. In the north, they are found in Iowa and from Maine to Minnesota. Prefer deciduous forest and leaf litter. They are the source of Lyme Disease and Babesiosis.
- The Western Black-legged tick thrives in the western and Pacific parts of the U.S. and British Columbia. Found in the forest, north coastal scrub, open field of grass, and high brush. Looks similar to the Black-legged Tick. It is responsible for spreading Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichiosis, and Babesiosis. It prefers livestock as its adult host but will settle for humans, deer, dogs, coyotes, wild pigs, reptiles, and small rodents.
- The American Dog Tick is most infectious in its adult stage. The male is reddish-brown, with gray markings over his entire back. The female has a reddish-brown body with a grey shield shape on her back. Prefers kennels, woods, barns, and grassy areas. Found mostly east of the Rockies in the U.S. Does not carry Lyme Disease, but does carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
- The Brown Dog Tick is a small, brownish-colored, elongated body with no ornamentation found throughout the U.S. and Southern Canada. Dogs are their primary host. They thrive in kennels and dog runs and carrt Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
- The Lone Star Tick is found mainly in the Southwest and West Texas. There are scattered pockets of them also found in New Jersey, Prudence Island, Rhode Island and Fire Island, N.Y. The female has a single white spot (lone star) on her back. Males have scattered spots. They thrive in oak and hickory woods, along rivers and creek sides. Hosts are humans, deer, cattle, birds, and rodents. Carry Ehrlichiosis.
Even though ticks cannot fly or jump, they may become airborne with sudden gusts of winds. That, and direct contact. They do that by brushing up against, falling on, or crawling up onto their host. Their unsuspecting hosts are their chief modes of transportation to expand their territory.
5 most common tick-borne diseases
- Lyme Disease: Dangerous to humans and dogs. Most common in Northeast U.S. Things to watch for in your dog are: signs of depression, anemia, limping, and high fever. If not treated soon enough, it can cause extreme joint pain and loss of appetite. If you see your dog limping, take them to your veterinarian. Lyme Disease is treated with antibiotics.
- Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever: This is exactly what it says, high fever, stiffness, diarrhea, anemia, vomiting, anemia, labored breathing, swollen leg and face (bleeding from the nose) blood in urine and feces. Treated with antibiotics.
- Tick Paralysis: Slowly paralyzes the dog over a 2-3 day period. Usually, once all the ticks are removed, the paralysis will disappear.
- Ehrlichiosis: Watch for a suppressed immune system, anemia, bloody nose, and 105-degree fever. Treated with antibiotics.
- Babesiosis: This has the most serious ramifications. It can cause anemia, liver, spleen, and kidney damage. Watch for dark urine, 107-degree F. fever, staggering and grinding of teeth. If left untreated, your dog may die within three to four days! Treated with Paniprotozoal medications.
Protect your dog from ticks
- Avoid brushy, grassy, or woody areas, especially in spring and summer. Ticks LOVE warm weather.
- Clear leaves, tall grass, and brush around areas you and your dog enjoy around your house.
- Move anything that attracts deer or rodents, the chief carriers of ticks.
- Get a couple of Guinea hens. They LOVE ticks! Two Guinea fowl can clear a couple of acres of land infested with ticks, in a single season.
- Use a topical tick treatment on your dog during the warmer seasons. You won’t need it, if the temperature remains below 32 degrees F. You also can give your dog chewable tick and flea protection from NexGard.
- It takes roughly 24-48 hours for a tick to transmit bacteria. It’s vital to remove them as soon as you discover them. If you are lucky, you will find them before they begin to burrow in.
How to remove ticks
- Wear disposable latex gloves! Do not touch a tick if possible.
- Use tweezers or a hemostat (available at many pharmacies or online)
- Have ready, alcohol, or flea spray, cotton balls, or swaps
- Carefully, feel around your dog for a “pimple”
- Clear the hair away
- When you see the tick, pinch its body near its head, as close to the mouthpart as possible, with the tweezers
- Pull ticks STRAIGHT out, slowly and firmly, in the opposite direction from the mouth
- Swab the area of the bite with alcohol, antiseptic soap, or 3% hydrogen peroxide
- Don’t worry if the head does not come out…it will eventually be ejected or absorbed by your dog’s body
- You may see a small pimple-sized bump. If it doesn’t go away in a couple of days, let your vet look at it – you don’t want to have to deal with a secondary infection!
- If it’s inflamed, rub or spray an antibiotic ointment on it
- Dispose of the tick in a jar of alcohol or flea spray. Then, flush it down the toilet.
- Don’t use the sink…they have been seen crawling back out!
- If you live in an area of high risk for Lyme Disease, you may choose to take the tick to your veterinarian, to find out if it is carrying Lyme Disease. He will send it to a lab for testing.
NEVER attempt to remove a tick by swabbing it with alcohol or petroleum jelly, or touching it with a burnt match or nail. This will only “tick off the tick!” It could cause it to release more bacteria into the dog’s bloodstream.
Puppies, weak, and older dogs are most susceptible to serious health issues from ticks. If you are diligent about checking your dog and yourself, after excursions in the great outdoors during those lazy, hazy, days; you should be fine. If you live in a high-risk area, be extra vigilant.
Karen A. Soukiasian is the owner of Good Dog! — Dog Training in St. Augustine, Florida. You can follow Karen on Facebook.