The experience is all too common: You come home from a good day’s frolic outdoors and just as you’re about to sit down and relax with your pooch, you notice a small bulbous spot on your dog. An olive stuck in the dog’s fur, perhaps? Then you think, “Wait a minute—my dog doesn’t drink martinis!” And that’s when you notice the tiny legs. If you managed not to scream and run away in horror then you probably realized it was a tick, and it is currently feasting on your pet. Summer is the season of the tick, and every new year is projected to have an explosion in tick populations due to climate change. Here’s some info to help you stay vigilant against the tick menace.
Ticks are ectoparasites, which means, like fleas, they live on the outside of a host. All ticks attach to their hosts by inserting their mouths into the skin, and once attached, feed on tasty blood. Ticks are hematophages so they must consume blood to survive and, depending on the species of tick, are actually capable of surviving up to two years without eating. Ticks locate hosts by detecting an animal’s breath or body odor, or by sensing body movements, heat or vibrations. They can lie in wait for years until they have access to a host body.
There are a number of different tick species, spread throughout various regions of the United States. While all species of tick can spread disease to humans and animals, the most well-known species is the blacklegged tick or deer tick, which can transmit Lyme disease. Lyme disease is caused by the transmission of the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi from tick bite to host. Symptoms in cats and dogs include swelling and painful inflammation of the joints, lethargy and lameness. Antibiotics are usually prescribed to rid the animal’s body of the bacteria, but joint pain and inflammation can persist even after the disease has been eradicated. For dogs and cats that live in areas with high rates of Lyme disease, vaccinating against the disease is highly recommended; an initial shot is given followed by a booster two to four weeks later.
The best way to fight ticks is to be prepared for them. Preventative measures such as tick-repelling medication or topical solutions like creams, sprays and shampoo go a long way to keep you and your pet safe. Protective outerwear will also increase your chances of thwarting those pesky parasites. If a particularly zealous tick manages to score against your pet, it is important to remove it as quickly as possible, as removing before 24 hours will greatly reduce the risk of Lyme disease. Tick keys make tick-removal incredibly easy, and can even be attached to your dog’s collar ring for convenience. Vigilance is key, so check your dog’s fur, ears, and other nooks and crannies.
If you do find and remove ticks from your pets, you can take them to the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services for testing. It’s a $40 fee; you simply remove the tick from your pet, place the tick in a container or Ziplock bag with a wet paper towel or cotton ball to keep the tick from drying out, take it to the department of health located in Eureka and they will test the tick for Lyme disease.
And of course, here at HPS, we have you covered—find everything you need to amp up your tick-fighting arsenal. Come on in and get ready for more summer fun!