It’s tick season. I found one on Luke yesterday, a friend found one on their dog a couple days ago. It is important to understand ticks to help prevent them.
I recently applied for a writing platform, CrowdSource, and in your submission application, you have to take different questions and write answers to them. The first question I answered was, “How do ticks breathe?” You would think this would be a simple answer to find with the help of the internet. Surprisingly, it wasn’t. I found answer’s that, ultimately, I learned were not correct. More research and I learned some interesting facts.
The first thing I learned is ticks are not insects. They are, in fact, arachnids. An arachnid has two body parts and eight legs. This means ticks are in the same category as spiders, scorpions, and mites. One difference ticks have from spiders is they only have one way of breathing, not two, like most arachnids. They are are able to breathe through an elaborate tracheae respiratory system which consists of a number of small, branching tubes that carry air to individual open pores, or cells, on their body. These tubes are filled with fluid and the gases diffuse in the tubes and ramify over the internal organs.
With over 900 types of ticks, it is easy to understand how they can live in almost any climate. The American Dog Tick is one form of a hard tick, which means it feeds continuously on blood, mates, then lays her eggs and dies. Soft ticks differ in that they feed intermittently and lay several batches of eggs. Hard ticks are harmful to our pets because they draw large amounts of blood, they secrete neurotoxins that has been known to produce paralysis or even death, and by transmitting diseases, including Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, and Rock Mountain spotted fever, just to name a few.
Let’s look at a few tick myths:
Ticks do not jump, fly, drop from trees. They sit on tall blades of grass and wait for an animal to pass by. They then crawl up and find a place on the animal to attach themselves and begin feeding.
Ticks do not burrow into the animal. They only insert 1/8th of their body into the animal (or host)
You can not remove a tick with Vaseline, a match, alcohol, etc. This does nothing except, in some cases, cause the tick to use their defense system and possibly regurgitate infected fluids into the host.
Ticks do not die during winter. Some types even begin feeding around the first frost. They can attach anytime of the year.
Not EVERY tick carries a disease. Many do, but not all. It can take up to 24 hours for the disease to be able to travel from the tick into the hosts bloodstream, so catching a tick quickly on both the animal or the human will minimize the chances of transmitting any disease.
When removing the tick, if you don’t get the head, it will grow another body is a MYTH! It may cause an infection like any foreign item in your body can, but will eventually work it’s way out.
In addition to protecting your animal, it is important to protect yourself.
Deer ticks, which carry Lyme Disease, are not as aggressive as dog ticks so once they hit a barrier, such as clothing, they generally stop crawling. This is why you find them close to sock lines, underwear, etc. Tucking clothes in will help minimize your risk.
Make sure you protect your animal against fleas and ticks. Talk to your veterinarian about which method they recommend, but it is important to also do your own homework. In some instances, veterinarians, like most people in medical fields, may be influenced by representatives of the company or receive some kickbacks for how many quantities of a particular brand they sell. You do not always have to get your preventative medicine from your veterinarian. They can write a prescription and you can take it anywhere. I get mine from Sam’s Club. I have found them to be the cheapest around here.
If you do find a tick, on either your pet or yourself, do NOT rotate it to pull it out! Ticks have more of a barb like attachment, not legs so you can not unscrew them out of the body.
The best ways to remove a tick is to take a pair of needle nose tweezers, squeeze the tick, and pull directly back.
There is also a tool called TickedOff Tick remover I have heard good things about. I have thought about getting a couple, one to leave at the barn and one to leave at home, to see how well they work. If anyone has used them, please leave a comment.
Bottom line, ticks are bad news. Let’s get on the front side of preventative measures and react quickly when we find one on ourselves or our pets!