Hello everyone! I took time off from posting newsletters for 10 months (won’t bore you with the details) and now I’m BACK starting this month of MAY with an issue about TICKS.
Ticks can be a scary and confusing subject. I’ve been researching this topic for over a month now and find conflicting information everywhere from various reputable websites - health, government, veterinary, and pet expert websites to phone calls with various veterinary clinics. I have found some interesting common facts, conflicting facts, uncommon facts, and advice that I’d like to share. After reading this, I encourage you to further educate yourself through your own research as well.
So… here we go…
Ticks are actually arachnids, which means they’re more closely related to spiders. They have four pairs of legs, no antennae, and—importantly—don’t fly or jump. Instead, when ticks are ready to feed, they usually camp out on blades of grass or foliage, where they wait for a human or animal to come to them. It’s a strategy called “questing”. Ticks find their hosts by detecting animals' breath and body odors, or by sensing body heat, moisture and vibrations. They stretch out their first set of legs and latch onto the unsuspecting host; from there, ticks crawl around until they find a thin area of skin near a small blood vessel, where it's easier to extract blood
Ticks have four distinct life stages:
- 1. Egg; 2. Six-legged larva; 3. Eight-legged nymph; 4. Adult
- Females deposit from 3,000 to 6,000 eggs on the ground. Adult ticks seek host animals and after engorgement on blood, they quickly mate.
- Females die soon after laying their eggs in protected habitats on the ground. The life cycle requires from as little as 2 months to more than 2 years, depending on the species.
- After the egg hatches, the tiny larva (sometimes called a “seed tick”) feeds on an appropriate host. The larva then develops (“molts”) into the larger nymph. The nymph feeds on a host and then molts into an even larger adult. Male and female adults feed and mate on the host; the female falls to the ground to lay her eggs, continuing the life cycle.
LYME DISEASE :
First named when a number of cases occurred in Lyme, Connecticut, in 1975, the disease can be hard to detect and can cause serious, ongoing health problems in both dogs and people.
There is so much information on this subject that I leave it to you to do your own research. But,
I DO want to mention a few points.
Humans: Symptoms of Lyme disease can be different from person to person:
Early signs and symptoms of Lyme disease usually start 3 to 30 days after you have been bitten by an infected blacklegged tick (deer tick). Most people experience mild flu-like symptoms soon after being bitten, while a small number may have more serious symptoms, sometimes weeks after the bite. Also, keep an eye out for the very distinct Lyme Disease rash pictured here.
Dogs: Symptoms of Lyme disease in Dogs:
Many dogs affected with Lyme disease are taken to a veterinarian because they seem to be experiencing generalized pain and have stopped eating. Affected dogs have been described as if they were "walking on eggshells." Often these pets have high fevers. Dogs may also begin limping. This painful lameness often appears suddenly and may shift from one leg to another. If untreated, it may eventually disappear, only to recur weeks or months later. . (http://www.health.com/mind-body/tick-borne-illness-facts#tick-not-insect)
Another way it gets discovered is if your dog’s liver or kidney acts up – could be a symptom of Lyme disease. Hopefully you kept your tick removal log to help the vet diagnose the problem and decide if it is tick bite related.
Some pets are infected with the Lyme disease organism for over a year before they finally show symptoms. By this time, the disease may be widespread throughout the body. And lastly, a dog can simply not be affected by the disease but be a carrier. This dog cannot spread it to any human or animal but get this… a non-infected tick could land on that same dog and get the Lyme disease from your carrier dog... how’s that for irony?
Cats: Do cats get ticks?
Answer is .. of course. One theory I've read about why it doesn't seem to be such a problem is that cats are grooming themselves the majority of the time and probably lick ticks off before they have a chance to latch on. Also, if your cat stays indoors they don't have the exposure to ticks that we humans and dogs do. If your cat does go outdoors, you should check your cat regularly for ticks regardless of whether you are using a flea and tick prevention medication. Consult your veterinarian for advice about what type of flea and tick preventive medication is best suited to your cat.
Even though Lyme disease is uncommon in cats, it is important to remember that cats can bring the ticks indoors if you are not using tick prevention on your cats. Your cat can easily become infested with deer ticks, bringing them inside your house. Some cats CAN get Lyme disease and their symptoms are similar to dogs. It's a good idea to discuss this all with your vet if you have a cat.
RISK OF LYME DISEASE.
The Lyme disease bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, is spread through the bite of infected blacklegged tick (or deer tick).
There is no exact science on how long it takes for a tick to find a feeding spot, latch on, begin feeding, and engorge itself fully before dropping off. MOST OF THE INFORMATION GIVEN OUT ABOUT TICKS AND LYME DISEASE IS BASED ON STATISTICS and very little on actual laboratory studies.
The CDC and many other sites suggest that transmission rates vary by the disease and the tick, but in general, it’s not instantaneous. In fact, The CDC go so far as to say, “In most cases, the tick must be attached for 36 to 48 hours or more before the Lyme disease bacterium can be transmitted.” (https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/transmission/) ANOTHER website says, “a tick most likely won’t even embed itself within 24 hours”.
And I found a THIRD WEBSITE that said, “ticks can start within 6 hours”.
These conflicts didn’t make sense to me. I asked myself WHY? There really are no answers to as to WHY varied advice is out there except to suggest that you not panic. There is no guarantee, but the percentage of risk does DECREASE the sooner you remove a tick attached or not.
You want the most up to date facts? ASK YOUR VETERINARIAN. They have the most recent education and current ongoing medical publications and journals! However, even then I was told some conflicting advice from vet clinic to vet clinic when I did my research for this article. All I can do personally is educate myself as best as I can, decide who to trust, and go from there.
For me, the bottom line is that the variables are many…
- The tick can find a perfect spot on the host immediately and start sucking shortly thereafter which means transmission of a disease can start at any point.
- Then again, it could take hours and hours for a tick to find the spot of warm moist thinned skinned area to begin its meal.
Where are the SPIROCHETES (bacteria carrying the Borrelia – Lyme disease) sitting inside the tick in the moment? It’s midgut? Slavia glands? Bloodstream?
A very complex and interesting study done in December 2014 (http://danielcameronmd.com/long-take-infected-tick-transmit-lyme-disease/) suggests that the SPIROCHETES (bacteria carrying the Borrelia – Lyme disease) was originally thought to be ingested and reside in the midgut of a tick. In conclusion the LYME and other diseases can be transmitted at anytime depending on where the spirochetes are in the tick. They stated that the spirochetes can leak into other parts of the tick – even into saliva at anytime.
In contradiction, a different website inferred the idea that these spirochetes reside only in the midgut and get pushed out into the tick’s circulation when the midgut begins to get engorged with the host’s blood!
In my research I DID find some things that are consistent and some things you don’t think of:
- Drying clothes in a dryer is very effective for killing ticks. The dehydration kills them. This is a good idea if you come from a trip where you might have had exposure.
- Young ticks ("nymphs") that are about the size of a POPPY SEED are more prevalent earlier in the year, while larger adult ticks are more likely to be seen in the late summer and early fall.
- No tick prevention medication, application, or collar is 100% effective. However, there are medicines your dog can take to KILL the tick once it bites. According to a vet I spoke with, Revolution will kill the tick within 24 hours of the tick bite. NextGard will kill the tick even faster.
This is an important tool to have since the less the tick is attached and sucking the less chance of Lyme disease being transmitted. Also, this tick will not live to drop off, infect others, and lay 1,000’s of eggs to continue the cycle.
Be sure to discuss with your veterinarian the options for repellents and tick killing agents. Compare the risks and percentages of success. Don’t make this decision on your own.
- The tick CAN fall off of a host (person or pet) before fully engorged and attached to another host to finish its meal. Another reason to inspect everyone and pets right away after a trip from tick potential areas.
- The Lyme disease tick can be carried in by dogs and cats however, they cannot transmit the disease itself directly to humans. Do keep in mind this same tick can fall off and reattach to humans or other pets.
- When checking your pets don’t forget to check their paws – between the toes and underneath between the pads.
- If you find a tick it’s important to keep it in a safe container with a LOG. See Tick removal Kit later in this article.
- If you find a tick on your pet, you will have to wait 4-6 weeks after the tick bite for your pet to be tested. This amount of time is needed for enough antibodies to be created and detected. In the meantime, there is nothing you can do but wait ... EXCEPT... if you have not used preventive medicine up to that point, you may want to start in case your dog gets a tick again.
MAKE YOUR YARD A SAFE ZONE
to Reduce Blacklegged Ticks in the Yard:
- Treat your yards with approved insecticides
- Make your landscape less tick friendly –
•Remove excess piles of leaves.
•Clear tall grasses and brush around homes and at the edge of lawns.
•Place a 3-ft wide barrier of gravel between lawns and wooded areas to restrict tick migration into recreational areas.
•Mow the lawn frequently.
•Stack wood neatly and in a dry area (discourages rodents).
•Keep playground equipment, decks, and patios away from yard edges and trees.
•Discourage unwelcome animals (such as deer, raccoons, and stray dogs) from entering your yard by constructing fences.
•Remove old furniture, mattresses, or trash from the yard that may give ticks a place to hide.
PROTECT YOURSELF WHILE OUT IN RISK AREAS
Ottawa Public Health ( http://www.ottawapublichealth.ca/en/public-health-topics/lyme-disease.aspx ) recommends:
- Apply a Health Canada approved insect repellent containing DEET or icaridin to exposed skin and clothing
- Wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, shoes and socks to cover exposed skin
- Tuck your pants into your socks!
- Wear light coloured clothing to spot ticks easier
- If possible, stay on the trails when hiking in the woods or walking in long grass
- Do a "full body" check on yourself, your children, and pets for ticks. Pay careful attention around your toes, knees, groin, armpits and scalp. (This applies to pets as well)
- Don’t forget to toss your clothes into the dryer when you get home to kill any ticks you can't see on your clothes.
SAFE TICK REMOVAL KIT
- Ziploc bag or similar to store tick in if needed for analysis later
- Magnifier to find and identify tick on host AND to see clearly when removing (you will want to make sure tick is intact after removal with head attached)
- Tick remover tool. (see OPTIONS at end of article)
- Rubber gloves. Always wear gloves while handling ticks to avoid contact with your skin.
- Disinfectant of any kind (alcohol, peroxide, antiseptic wipes, soap and water etc.) to clean area on host after tick is removed and your hands as well.
- Download and print a tick identification card - there is one at: http://www.natureoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/tickcard2007eng.pdf
- paper and pencil
- Write down person or pet with tick and date
- Location of tick on the body - take photo
- Locations of possible exposure with this tick
- Approximate size and engorgement - take a photo of the tick
- What precautions were taken before and after tick discovery
TICK REMOVAL TOOLS
Again, there is conflicting information out there. Some tools say to slowly twist tool around tick to aggravate the tick (tick should begin to pull out itself) then gently pull up to remove. Other sites say DON’T twist at all… only to pull gently up (so not to dislocate head or legs). Other places say don’t squeeze tick in any part of it’s body (could force more fluid out of the tick and into host) and yet many sites say to use tweezers to remove ticks.
I, personally, prefer a compromise ..... I refuse to use any type of tweezers (made for tick removal or not). Especially on a pet or child. If the they move unexpectedly or if I misjudge or slip, I could accidently squeeze the tweezers on the tick instead of the point of insertion at the skin. I agree that twisting may not be a good idea… “gently” to one person may not be the same pressure to someone else. I feel safe with tools that I can push on the host’s skin with, with constant pressure down, then slide the tool around the tick and then slowly and very gently nudge the tick up and out.
Of course, there are many tools on the market. My favorite is the "Ticked Off" spoon. It has the notch necessary to pull up any size tick and will catch the tick once removed so I don’t have to touch it. Ticks don’t jump so I don’t have to rush to get it into a container.
The key with ALL first aid procedures is to NOT rush and stay calm.
Here are the most common options….