Ticks. One of the most feared and reviled critter in the under an inch size class. Just plain creepy. And once you’ve had the first one of the season on your skin, you can feel the phantom ones crawling on you at any time, anyplace. A shiver just went up my spine, thinking about it.
While we occasionally get them on us when walking in the tall grass or in the forest, our dogs proximity to them as they run through the field or forest makes them much more susceptible to picking up a hitchhiker or two, or ten.
Fearing these tiny parasites is wise, though, as they are capable of spreading some nasty disease, and even cause major damage if they are allowed to remain on our pets. The internet has too many pictures of rescue dogs that arrived with hundreds of fully engorged ticks on them. Add to that the concern about Lyme disease, and the need to protect our pets (and ourselves) from these critters becomes even more important.
Prevention is the key. If you can, avoid areas where they may be. Long grass, forests frequented by deer and other wildlife and even urban areas and parks can be prime tick infestation areas. If you can find a way to exercise without going into these areas during prime tick season, you can avoid the threat.
If going to the cottage, camping or the dog park is an essential part of your routine, then there are preventatives you can employ to help prevent an infestation.
There are oral medications that are supposed to protect for a period of time, and repeated on a regular basis. There seems to be two methods of working, one that prevents them from biting by repelling the pest, the other will kill the animal after it bites the pet. Because Lyme disease infection happens during the bite and feeding process, products that kill ticks after they bite are less effective at preventing Lyme. If you choose this method, make sure you know the type of action of the medication you are using.
Alternately, there are products (collars or salves) you can apply to the animal that repel ticks. Some are more effective, but they can use chemicals such as permethrines, phenothrin or tetrachlorvinphos, which may cause reaction in animals with sensitive systems or skin. There are herbal products, like citronella and rose germanium oil, that are reported to be effective, but might not protect as well as the collars or salves. Many people will go through a number of different products until they find the one that works for both them and their pet.
If you do get a tick on a pet, it is very important that you remove it effectively. There have been a number of methods spread in the media or internet that are not appropriate. Peppermint oil, vaseline, or even heat (cigarette, match) are NOT appropriate methods, please do not use them. Neither is just pulling the tick off by grabbing the body with pliers or tweezers.
The key to removing a tick is to not cause it to regurgitate as it is being removed. That regurgitation greatly increases the chance of Lyme infection. Smothering it with an oil, burning it, or squeezing the body before pulling it off will cause it to regurgitate into the animal. To properly remove a tick, you must work from the head, either with a special removal tool or something like a bobby pin or tweezers. By removing the tick head first, you stop it from being able to regurgitate into the animal, and also you are more likely to remove the proboscis (the biting part of the mouth). If this part is left in, it has a greater chance of the wound infecting.
There are many videos online showing how to remove a tick with common household items, and there are handy little tools you can buy that are cheap and easy to use. Its not a hard job and if done right, make problems and infections a lot less likely.