Ticks are small parasitic arachnids (same class as spiders). In veterinary medicine, ticks pose a major source of infection for ehrlichia (e.canis, e.equi, e.platys, e. risticii, e.ewingii), Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (Rickettsia rickettsii), tularemia (francisella turarensis diagnosed in California's Tulare county), Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi), and multiple other disorders.
What kinds of diseases can my pet get from ticks?
Tick borne diseases can cause multiple different illnesses. This includes immune mediated diseases where the red blood cells can become severely depleted causing life threatening anemia, platelet loss causes uncontrolled bleeding, inflammation to the central nervous system and brain, inflammation to the joints and muscles causes debilitating arthritis and pain.
Life cycle and why ticks spread infection
The life cycle of the tick is straight forward but poses the risk. Ticks require multiple blood meals from different hosts to shed their exoskeleton and grow. Feeding is achieved by latching onto the host, regurgitating saliva (which contains enzymes and possibly germs) that help cement its bond with the host and establish a patent feeding site. Over the case of minutes to days, the tick engorges itself with blood. The ingestion of blood is NOT a one way direction. Ticks will ingest, regurgitate, and ingest throughout this time. This regurgitation of stomach content is one the major time frames for infection of disease.
Where do ticks live?
Ticks are located in shrubs, high grass, low hanging trees. When preparing to find a host, ticks will scurry to the very ends of leaves or grass blades and hold their legs out in preparation to attach to a passing host.
How do I avoid ticks?
Prevention is the major way disease from ticks can be avoided. Avoid areas with high grass, shrub, or low hanging trees if possible. If you are preparing to enjoy a stroll or walk through these areas, wear long pants and if possible, tuck your pants INTO your socks. When walking with a dog, keep the dog on a leash at all times. Keep him away from caution areas (areas where there are ticks can also have rattlesnakes). If you enjoy a stroll or walk through a possible tick area, after your walk - thoroughly inspect yourself. Check creases of pants, your hair line, corners of your body. For your dog, check his feet, the webbing of feet, groin, axilla (arm pits), ears, neck, prepuce or vulva. Should you discover a tick before it has attached, simply remove and discard. If you find a tick after you arrive home, discard into a sealable bag or jar and instill an adequate amount of isopropyl rubbing alcohol to discard the tick.
How do I remove a tick?
If you find a tick and it has latched on with its head buried underneath the epidermis (skin). Do the following:
1. DO NOT PANIC.
2. Visit the following site published by the CDC. How to remove a tick from CDC (you must attempt to remove the head. If unsuccessful, the head must still be removed and must not be left underneath the skin)
3. If you have any question, if the tick is on your person, contact your physician. If the tick is on your pet, contact your veterinarian.
What products can help prevent ticks on my dog?
There are many FDA approved drugs for the prevention of ticks. Your family veterinarian is the best resource at your disposal. Different geographic areas have different parasitic concerns. Only your veterinarian will have the decades of experience in your town to help pick the most efficacious and safe product for your dog.
There are many factors in choosing which medication to administer. Some topical medications that are very safe for dogs are POISONOUS to cats. ASK YOUR VETERINARIAN. If your cat grooms your dog, lays in the same area as your dog, it is possible for your cat to be exposed to enough of the medication to cause tremors or even seizures. If your dog loves to swim, topical medications may not be the best choice. Newer generations of monthly or even three month oral medications have excellent coverage. However, oral medications may cause indigestion for some pets. There is NO ONE medication that will work for all dogs.
Ticks are fascinating but disgusting creatures that can pose a health risk to our families. Prevention is the best means of avoiding such risks.
Written January 6, 2015 by JKim