Ticks are one of the most disgusting and yet interesting creatures in our environment. If you stop right now, look out your window and strain your eye to locate even one, chances are none will be evident. But trust me, if you have a pet (especially a dog), sometimes see deer in your neighborhood, or have wooded or weedy areas nearby, they are definitely present. And their presence constitutes dangers to you and your family. Awareness of those dangerous threats is the first step in protecting your family from tick-borne diseases.
One of the most frustrating challenges as a veterinary hospital owner was having a canine patient presented with huge numbers of ticks. Those poor guys literally “dripped” ticks on the floor and exam table with every movement of their body. The happy, frisky tail waggers not only dripped ticks, they “flipped” them far and wide as well. You can imagine the staggering task of finding and disposing of all of them from the hospital.
Each of those “tick dripping” dogs was headed for or facing disaster from severe anemia caused by the sheer number of blood-sucking parasites. The reason for anemia in those cases is self-evident and easy to understand. It’s the real potential for infectious and zoonotic disease that requires more education and understanding. No one is more qualified to help you become educated about ticks than your local veterinarian. Take advantage of their knowledge if you own a dog or cat.
Most everyone is aware that ticks suck blood from their host which can include deer and other wild animals, pets in the neighborhood and, of course YOU and YOUR KIDS. But did you know that when that tick sucks out blood, it then regurgitates a dark sludge which may contain infectious agents back into its host after his body has removed proteins from the blood? Did you know the male tick switches frequently from host to host looking for female ticks, happily feeding on and regurgitating into each of those hosts? You may have heard of some of the diseases transmitted by ticks like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Anaplasmosis, Ehrlichiosis and Lyme disease which can present challenges in diagnosis and treatment for humans as well as pets.
The best treatment is always prevention! The good news is that there are a lot of steps you can take to protect your pets, yourself, and your family from the dangers posed by these ever-present parasites. That’s right, ever-present. First of all, there is no month in a calendar year which can be considered a “tick free month”. Two tick facts cause confusion about their prevalence. One is the different species of ticks and the fact that seasonal high prevalence within an environment varies with the different species present. And, for reasons not fully understood, “tick storms” occur from time to time when incredible numbers of ticks burst on the scene in brushy wooded areas.
If you own a pet (yes, ticks do feed on cats,too), visit your veterinarian and follow his recommendations for killing and repelling ticks encountered by your furry friend. The very best products available today are about 95% effective. So, you may also consider fencing areas with trees and underbrush in your yard, thereby reducing exposure to ticks.
Whether you own a pet or not, protect yourself and children when outdoors by applying insect repellants containing Deet. Doing so could prevent a lifetime of health issues in the case of Lyme disease. Yes, Lyme disease is most prevalent in the northeastern USA where the deer tick is most common. However, the fact is in our highly mobile society it can be a threat in any location.
There is a really neat and helpful website at http://www.petsandparasites.org where you can access all sorts of information about ticks and other parasites and discover more steps to take in protecting your family while enjoying pets and playing or working outdoors. Also, learn even more by clicking on the highlighted words within the post!