The different seasons come with different challenges for our pets. Here in Minnesota during spring and summer we have to deal with ticks. We’re told they are heaviest in the months of May, June and July, but we have seen them later and earlier in the year depending on the weather. It is funny that I can watch a gory monster movie, but I get absolutely creeped out by ticks.
Ticks are a member of the arachnid family and, like spiders, have eight legs when they are adults. Ticks are an external parasite that lives on the blood of their host. They are usually found on birds and mammals, though there are reports of them appearing on amphibians and reptiles. There are many varieties of ticks, but the three that should concern you if you live in the United States are the deer tick, American dog tick, and brown dog tick.
While ticks can neither fly nor hop, they can drop on their host from a tree or just crawl up a leg or tail. They are abundant near water sources where animals might come to drink. The pets most at risk are the ones that are ill, senior citizens or weak, though any pet can be assaulted by a tick. Ticks can be found in most forests or areas where there are woodlands. They tend to frequent trails and paths that have been made by either humans or animals. They’re usually found more in taller meadow grass that will have shrubs and trees rather than clipped grass. It has even been hypothesized that ticks can respond to scents animals leave behind, and that is why they are found around trails and paths. Ticks are also able to sense the heat and carbon dioxide emissions from a potential host.
Deer ticks are especially dangerous, as they can be carriers of Lyme disease. This debilitating disease can strike down humans and their pets alike. The western variety of deer tick can transmit Lyme disease as well as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever to their host. A deer tick is about the size of the head of a straight pin.
The American dog tick, also known as a wood tick, is found mostly east of the Rocky Mountains. They have also been found in parts of Mexico, Canada and the Pacific Northwest. They prefer dogs as their host and can be found on a dog as an adult tick. The dog tick is about an eighth of an inch long as an adult. These ticks winter in the soil and can be active between mid-April to early September, depending on your particular climate. The dog tick is primarily known for passing on Rocky Mountain spotted fever to its host, though it can also pass on the vector of tularemia, which can cause canine tick paralysis.
The brown dog tick is an oddity in that it can live its entire life indoors. This means you can have an infestation in your house, since this tick does not have to develop outside. They are found throughout the world, primarily in warmer climates. They are about the size of the American dog tick. They can be found on pets, inside houses, kennels, and sometimes on wildlife.
Grooming your dog frequently can help you find a tick and prevent an infestation in your house. A tick can cause itchiness around the site of the bite, infection and sometimes even paralysis and death. Often, a tick can be removed fairly easily, by using a tweezers and grasping the head of the tick and pulling gently. Don’t try to remove the tick with your bare hands; if the tick you are removing is infected, you could transfer it to yourself. You don’t want to leave the mouth parts in the wound, as they can cause a secondary infection.
One method some vets recommend is to take a swab with rubbing alcohol on it and dab it on the tick to try and get it to let go. Make sure after removing a tick from your dog to bathe the area well with an antiseptic wash. Keep an eye on the area in case there are further complications, and contact your veterinarian if you notice any changes at the site of the bite.
It isn’t hard to be aware and check your dog each time you come in the house. By being diligent you can safeguard your pets, your family and yourself. Your dog will love the extra attention even if they don’t know why they’re getting it.
Read more articles by Ruthie Bently
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