It is the time of year when many dogs are picking up ticks. We do not profess to be experts on dog ticks other than knowing what a huge nuisance they are both for removal purposes and the health risks they pose. So we have searched the internet for some resources that we think will help you to understand a bit more about them, how to remove them and what you need to know in terms of the health risks they pose for your pet.
Ticks are divided into 3 different families. Only 2 of these families are present in the US, the Ixodidae (hard tick) family and the Argasidae (soft tick) family. Within the Ixodidae, there are about 60 different species that have been reported in the US. Within the Argasidae family, there are about 20 reported US species.
If you have a dog, chances are you are familiar with ticks. You're also familiar with the many commercials and advertisements that encourage you to purchase products to get rid of ticks or prevent them from feeding on your pet. We place a lot of importance in preventing ticks in our pets because ticks are more than just blood-sucking arachnid parasites; along with mosquitoes, ticks are responsible for transmitting many diseases in dogs. Some of these include:
Ehrlichia. This is the most common disease transmitted by ticks in dogs
Ehrlichiosis is a tick-born disease of dogs characterized by fever, lethargy, lameness and/or bleeding tendencies. It is caused by one of several rickettsial organisms that belong to the genus, Ehrlichia. Ehrlichia canis (E. canis) is the primary causative agent in dogs.
Rickettsia are small microscopic organisms that are different from both bacteria and viruses. They enter various cells of the body and behave as tiny parasites, eventually killing the cell.
The disease is spread predominantly by the brown dog tick in the United States. Ticks are seen on the affected dog less than half the time, however. Infrequently, ehrlichiosis can be caused by the transfusion of infected blood. It occurs much more commonly in the dog than in the cat. It can be seen in any age dog, although it is seen most commonly in middle-aged animals. Purebred dogs, especially German shepherd dogs, appear to be more susceptible than crossbred dogs.
The impact on the affected individual can vary from very mild clinical signs to severe, life threatening disease. Several different stages of the disease are possible. Subclinical, asymptomatic infection may occur and may persist for months or years. Acute clinical signs may develop in some dogs and resolve spontaneously or with treatment. Acute infections may also develop into chronic infections that produce more severe clinical signs.
Many methods have been tried to remove ticks, many of which are not recommended. Applying a recently extinguished match or even a still lit match to the body of the tick will NOT cause the tick to back out and fall off. The mouth parts only let go when the tick has completed the meal. Also, applying fingernail polish will suffocate the tick but will not cause the tick to fall off.
- The best recommendation to remove a tick is to use a tweezers or commercially available tick removal device and pull the tick off. Do not touch the tick since diseases can be transmitted. Use a tissue or paper towel to protect your fingers. Consider wearing gloves when removing a tick.
- With a tweezers or tick removal device, grab the tick as close to the head as possible. With steady, gentle pressure, pull the tick out of the skin. Frequently, pieces of skin may come off with the tick. Do not twist the tick - pull straight up and out.
- If the head of the tick remains in the skin, try to grab it and remove as much as possible. If you are unable to remove the entire head, don't fret. This is not life threatening. Your pet's immune system will try to dislodge the head by creating a site of infection or even a small abscess. Wash your hands.
- Usually no additional therapy is needed, but if you are concerned, contact your family veterinarian. There are surgical instruments that can be used to remove the remaining part of the tick.