Timely Tick Talk
Over Memorial Day weekend I got a somewhat cryptic text message from a friend:
HIM: Any tricks besides vasoline to get ticks out. It's under Liddy's skin and won't back out.
ME: Tweezers at the base of the head and slow gentle pressure. We need to get Liddy on a flea/tick preventative!
I thought that was the end of it until Tuesday when I received an urgent call at the clinic that they stillÂ had been unable to pull out the tick and needed help. During my examination I found a small hairless bump by Liddy's ear. There was no evidence of a bite, no mouth parts left behind. Polite interrogation of the owner revealed that no one had actually seenÂ a tick on Liddy. The owner had found the bump (most likely a tiny cyst) and assumed it was tick that had buried itself in her skin!Â
This interaction reminded me there are many myths associated with ticks, with "ticks crawling underÂ the skin" being a common one. While a client once reported to me that the cause of all her sinus problems was a woefully confused tick that had crawled up her nostril and died (yuck!), ticks do notÂ burrow under the skin of their victims. They do embed their mouth parts in the skin while taking their blood meal, however, and these mouth parts can become lodged in the skin if the tick is improperly removed before it is done feeding.
|A Wood tick crawling around on my porch...
located amid a mowed lawnÂ and sparse trees
Having found a high number of Wood ticks in unusual places this spring (my kitchen sink, porch and pillow) I feel a tick talk is in order.Â
MYTH: â€śTick seasonâ€ť occurs only during the warm summer months.
FACT: In central Wisconsin, ticks are out and about from early spring until snow covers the ground (often March through November).
MYTH: My pet doesnâ€™t go â€śup northâ€ť into the woods, so I donâ€™t have to worry about tick bites.
FACT: Ticks are found throughout Wisconsin. They live predominantly in tall grasses and shrubs. Ticks sense an approaching animal and hop on as it passes by.
MYTH: My pet is safe from Lyme disease because Iâ€™ve never found deer ticks on him.
FACT: Exposure to one species of tick increases risk of exposure to other species as well. Deer ticks might go unnoticed on your pet while they are attached and feeding because they are so tiny. Ticks can attach under and in the ears and between the toes, places that often go unchecked. Ticks engorged with blood look dramatically different from â€śemptyâ€ť ticks, so it is difficult for the untrained eye to determine which species of tick is present. Furthermore, deer ticks are not the only culprit; many species of ticks are known to carry diseases that can harm people and pets.
MYTH: My dog is vaccinated against Lyme disease, so I donâ€™t have to worry about ticks.
FACT: Lyme disease is a common disease transmitted by the deer tick. Fortunately there is an effective vaccine against Lyme disease. However, many dogs in Wisconsin are infected with anaplasmosis, a different disease carried by deer ticks. There is no vaccine to protect against anaplasmosis. Another tick species, the Lone Star tick, has reportedly made an appearance in southern Wisconsin, bringing a collection of "new" tick diseases to the state.
MYTH: My dog isnâ€™t lame so I know he doesnâ€™t have a tick disease.
FACT: Lameness and joint swelling are indeed typical signs of tick disease. Other symptoms may include fever, lethargy and loss of appetite. However, many dogs found to have tick disease have no obvious signs of illness. Tick disease screening is a simple blood test recommended as part of a dogâ€™s annual wellness examination.
MYTH: I only have cats. All this talk about ticks doesnâ€™t apply to my kitties.
FACT: Ticks can and do feed on cats. Scientists believe that cats can get some of the same tick diseases people and dogs get. Use of an appropriate
flea and tick preventative on cats that spend time outdoors is a good idea. NOTE: Before applying any over-the-counter flea and tick preventative to your cat, please check with your veterinarian to make sure it is safe for cats.
The best protection against tick diseases is achieved by using a combination of tactics. Inspect your pet carefully after being in grassy or wooded areas. Removing a tick within the first 48 hours of attachment drastically reduces transmission of disease. (Wash your hands thoroughly after removing a tick from your pet.) Ask your veterinarian if vaccination against Lyme disease is recommended for your dog. Topical flea and tick preventative should be used during the spring, summer and fall at a minimum.
As for Liddy, the owners are applying a topical antibiotic/anti-inflammatory and we will follow up with additional testing if the bump does not resolve on its own.
June 3, 2012
Posted in: anaplasmosis, deer tick, Lone Star tick, Lyme, preventative, ticks, Wood tick