Ticks are parasites that attach and feed off the blood of people and animals, feeding ravenously off their host. During their feeding process, ticks can spread numerous diseases, such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and Q fever. They also release poisons that can cause damage to their hosts. They may also create skin sores that result in screwworm infestations and secondary bacterial infections. Extreme tick infestations may cause anaemia and death.
Theoretically, ticks are not categorised as insects; they are actually arachnids, related to spiders. 825 species of ticks are in existence, belonging to 7 biological families. There are more than 650 species of the Ixodidae family (also known as “hard” ticks), while there are about 150 species in the next largest family, the Argasidae (“soft” ticks). The other tick families (the Argas, Nutelliellidae, Amblyomma, Boophilus, and Aponomma) are tinier and much less significant in terms of diseases. They undergo 4 life phases i.e. egg, larva, nymph, and adult.
Ticks are prevalent globally. There are some ticks that prey on specific animals, while others are not specific and prey on different species of animals, even humans. Parasitical behaviour is dependent on the species involved. Mature ticks feeding action is primarily done in early fall and late summer, though it may start later on after a dry summer. Nymphs and larvae are active as of spring through autumn. Depending on the environmental conditions, ticks can endure several months to years with no food.
Majority of tick species have a preferred feeding part on their host. However, ticks may affix themselves anywhere they can locate a feeding place, if the infestation is thick. A number of ticks feed mainly on the neck, pubic area, head, and shoulders. There are also other species that prefer sites such as in nasal passages, the ears, under the tail, or next to the anus.
Tick infestation is signified by the existence of a tick on the animal. Most of the animals affected tend to spend time outdoors, particularly in wild areas. Therefore, hunting breeds or dogs that stray are most susceptible to infestation, though it is possible to acquire ticks if the dog spends time outside.
Otobius megnini is a species of tick that is unusually good at hiding. They have a preference for attaching themselves inside their hosts’ ears, making it difficult to be spotted by pet owners. They are prevalent in areas of low rainfall, such as the western US, Mexico and western Canada. Tick infestations in dogs and humans can result in extreme irritation of the ear canal, and even paralysis. There is also the possibility of secondary infections from larval screwworms. This particular species of tick is responsible for spreading Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Q fever, Colorado tick fever, and tularaemia.
A positive diagnosis is given if there are ticks on the animal or tick bite marks on the dog. Ticks that haven’t really spent a lot of time on the host (an hour to a few days) look flat, while those that have infested an animal for days tend to be bloated due to the blood they have engorged on.
In order to lessen the disease and damage, all ticks should be removed as quickly as possible. Make sure to use tweezers to cautiously seize the tick close to the skin and tug lightly. You should not attempt to ever pull a tick using your bare hands, as there are tick-borne diseases, such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, that are instantly spread through cuts in your skin or mucous membrane contact. Do not use hot matches to get rid of them. Treatment should involve insecticides that destroy all larvae, nymphs, and adults. Administering such treatment is by dusts, applying spot-on solutions on the back and the entire body surface, dips, and sprays. It is important to take care when choosing the appropriate anti-tick products. Your veterinarian should be able to provide a recommendation for the best tick control product for the affected animal. Flea control products that are administered monthly can also successfully control ticks. Ensure that the veterinarian is informed about any additional pets you may own in your household as this will have a bearing in the veterinarian’s course of action.
In cases of excessive tick infestation, you should immediately take your dog to a veterinarian for tick removal. Not only do severe infestations cause a lot of skin damage, but the odds of developing paralysis, anaemia, and other difficulties are high. The best care that your severely affected pet can receive is from your veterinarian. It is also likely that your pet may be hospitalized.
The fact that there are only a few ticks on your pet shouldn’t stop you from having your pet checked for any of the numerous diseases transmitted by these parasites. Examine any spot(s) from which you have plucked ticks from. In case the bite site becomes red or swollen, then a quick trip to the veterinarian is necessary.
The most valuable thing you can do is to limit exposure of your animals to tick-prone areas. For the most part, ticks live in certain microhabitats, for example long grass or the boundary linking lawns and wooded areas. It is thus imperative that such microhabitats are destroyed in order to lessen the tick population. You can also trim vegetation and remove tall grass and weeds, or use insecticide to somewhat decrease the threat of ticks. On the other hand, insecticides are not recommended for extensive use due to environmental contamination and the expenditure involved in treatment of large areas.