Tick Tock . . . Time for Ticks!

Jul 05, 2021

Summer is the time for sun, swimming, barbeques, vacations, and (Eeeek) ticks! I have already removed one from my daughter’s shirt hem while we were out picking blackberries.

Whether your pet spends time outdoors regularly, or if you are bringing him/her along on vacation in wooded or semi-wooded areas, it is important to remember to get his or her tick preventative on board first!

Ticks find their hosts by detecting animals´ breath and body odors, or by sensing body heat, moisture, and vibrations. Some species can even recognize a shadow. In addition, ticks pick a place to wait by identifying well-used paths. Then they wait for a host, resting on the tips of grasses and shrubs. Ticks can’t fly or jump, but many tick species wait in a position known as “questing”. While questing, ticks hold onto leaves and grass by their third and fourth pair of legs. They hold the first pair of legs outstretched, waiting to climb on to the host. When a host brushes the spot where a tick is waiting, it quickly climbs aboard. Some ticks will attach quickly and others will wander, looking for places like the ear, or other areas where the skin is thinner.*

Tick bites can leave red, irritated, itchy bumps on the skin that may become infected. This can be bad, but not as bad as the diseases that ticks can spread through the bite. Different tick species may pass along different diseases such as Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichiosis, Anaplasmosis, Hepatozoonosis, and more. All can have serious health effects in pets, and some may have serious health effects on humans as well. Symptoms such as fever, swollen and painful joints, lameness/limping, decreased white or red blood cell counts (risk of infection, anemia), paralysis, vomiting, weight loss, even death can occur if a pet becomes infected with a tick-borne disease. Diagnosis can be difficult without advanced testing, and treatment may range from antibiotic therapy to intensive care hospitalization.

Talk to your veterinarian about which tick preventative is best for your pet! If you ever find an attached tick on your pet, please call your veterinarian to discuss if testing may be recommended or if a change should be made in your current tick prevention medication.

Follow these steps to safely remove a tick if you ever find one attached to your pet or yourself:

-Grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible using fine-tipped tweezers
-Using steady, even pressure, pull upward without twisting to prevent breaking mouth parts off within the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth parts with tweezers if you can; if you can’t do this easily, do not attempt to remove from deep within the skin, as this could cause more damage.
-After removing the tick, clean the area with soapy water or rubbing alcohol. Dispose of a live tick by putting it in alcohol or flushing it down the toilet.

Be safe out there this Summer!

Dr. Tashina Elswick

*Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/life_cycle_and_hosts.html