Thursday, April 23, 2009

Preventing and Removing Ticks

Most people have a natural aversion to ticks. If one of the disgusting, blood sucking creatures (they belong to the spider family – arachnids rather than insects) lands anywhere on the body, you’ll see uncontrollable jumping, slapping oneself, brushing the clothing wildly, and cringing, possibly even screaming. “Ugh! A tick…get it off…get it off!”
(Pictured at right: Dog Tick, Deer Tick)

Ticks are not only gross, but they are dangerous to both humans and pets. They carry a number of diseases like Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Ticks are perfect breeding grounds for disease that can be transmitted with one tick imbedded into the skin.

Ticks don’t fly but they wait for a blood transfusion at the top of grass, bushes, shrubs, and plants. They crawl into trees and climb out on limbs waiting for an innocent child, dog, or other warm blooded animal to pass by. There are two things that attract ticks, one is body heat and the other is the carbon dioxide we exhale. It’s impossible to disguise these things as you’re walking or running through a grassy area.

Once the tick senses a warm body approaching, it moves its front legs into the air, getting ready. As you or your pet walk by, the tick grabs on and climbs onto the fur or skin. What is so disgusting is that the tick will crawl around for hours without you even knowing, looking for the perfect spot to dig in and start blood-sucking!

You probably don’t really want the gruesome details but here goes…once the tick finds a nice spot, it digs into the skin with its mouth. It has barbs that prevent the tick from falling off which is why it’s so hard to pull them off and usually the skin is pulled off with the tick. The tick not only has barbs but it makes its own glue that sets it into the skin. Gross…you bet!

Now that the tick is all settled in, it feeds on the blood of the unsuspecting pet or human for several days until it is a ‘bloated blob of blood’. Once the tick is totally bloated, it drops off the victim. You may have found a bloated tick on your kitchen floor after it is accidentally stepped on. It looks like a mashed up blueberry.

The reason ticks engorge themselves on blood is so than can make those wonderful tick babies. The tick lays tens of thousands of eggs before it dies. The eggs develop into larva, the nymph, and then the adult tick. Some ticks are miniscule and can only be seen with a magnifying glass while others are the size of a flat baby pea.

Most ticks found in the US are one of these types:

  • American Dog Tick (pictured above)

  • Lone Star Tick

  • Deer Tick (pictured above)

  • Brown Dog Tick

  • Preventing Against Ticks
Make sure your lawn is mowed and pull any weeds growing in the area.
When walking your dog, keep to the middle of a path or trail. Try to avoid brushing against shrubs and bushes, especially when you’re in the woods.

When you get home from your walk, check your pet and your children for ticks. Start at the nose of the dog and continue all the way to the end of the tail. Make sure you check the ears. Ticks love ears, necks, and throats. Under your dog’s belly is another favorite tick spot.

If you find a tick, remove it right away. Don’t touch the tick. If it is not imbedded yet, use masking tape to get it off the body. Just fold the tape over the tick and throw it away. Don’t try to squash the tick; it could be carrying dangerous infections that are contagious.

An embedded tick is a little trickier to remove. Use tweezers to get a hold of the tick. Grab it as close to the skin as you can and pull it straight out. Avoid twisting it because it could break open and leave the mouth under the skin. If you don’t have tweezers, use paper or cloth to keep your fingers from touching the tick. The best way to get rid of a tick after you pull it out is to flush it down the toilet or put it in rubbing alcohol.

After removing the tick, wash the area with soap and water. Be sure to wash your hands, as well. In the past, people used to try and burn the tick or suffocate them with nail polish. These methods should NOT be used. They do not work effectively and they could harm the skin of your pet or child.
The best way to prevent ticks is to use a flea and tick product sold at most pet stores and veterinarian offices. I recommend Frontline. I use it for my two dogs every year and I haven’t seen a flea in years. Frontline also kills ticks if they do land on your pet. They will drop off and you’ll never have to touch them.

As far as people go, there isn’t a flea or tick product that lasts for a month, but a strong insect repellant with DEET will repel ticks and flying insects. Also, wear long pants when walking in the woods and keep the pant legs tucked into your socks. Most importantly, wear a hat to keep ticks out of the hair where they are hard to see. Wearing light colored clothing is also a good idea, so you can see the tick if it lands on you.

Hopefully, these suggestions will help keep your family and pets safe from the dangers of the blood-sucking ticks.

No comments:

Post a Comment