Ticks

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks itching. No, I haven’t had poison ivy, or any other skin rash. I’ve been writing an article on ticks and after working for about an hour, I start to itch. I’ve needed to take frequent breaks from my research because my skin starts to twitch as I continue to read more and more about ticks.

Ticks, according to what I’ve been reading, are having a banner year. All this heat and moisture is making them very happy. Also, our mild winters have not killed the ticks off. It needs to stay cold in order to kill the ticks, and it just hasn’t been cold enough long enough.

Ticks are tiny little members of the spider family and they can infect your dog with seven different diseases. One of those diseases, carried by the black-legged tick (formerly known as the deer tick) is Lyme disease, which is a threat to humans and cats as well as dogs.

Cytauxzoonosis is a tick-borne disease that strikes cats, and is generally fatal. The good news is that, so far, that disease has not yet reached New York state, but seems to be mainly in the southeast.

One of the problems with tick-borne diseases in dogs is that the symptoms may not show up for several months. Your pet may be bitten by a tick in August, but show no signs of illness until November. By then, you’ve probably forgotten that a tick ever bit your dog or cat, if you even knew. Another problem is that the symptoms of the diseases are very similar, and, a tick can infect your dog with more than one disease. A blood test may reveal the disease, but if taken too early, the test will be negative. Several tests may be needed before your dog is diagnosed correctly.

Ticks are small, but grow larger as they feed, so, if you check your animals daily, you may feel the tick. Ticks have to stay attached for 24 to 48 hours before they transmit a disease, so it’s important to get the tick off as soon as possible. If you can’t do it yourself, get your pet to your veterinarian as soon as possible.

There are special little tools for removing a tick, or you can use tweezers, or your fingers. Never use a lighted match or other flame. True, it probably will make the tick let go, but you risk seriously burning your pet. Tweezers are a better bet. Grab the tick close to the skin and pull. Drown the tick in alcohol or flush it. Disinfect the bite area and your hands.

Time out while I scratch.

I’ve been very fortunate and only ever found one tick on a dog. That was in Arizona, and I just thought it was a bit of dirt. I scraped it off, and then realized that the “dirt” was waving eight legs in the air. Fortunately, Rhiannon didn’t catch any disease.

During tick season, avoid tall grass and undergrowth. Old tree stumps or rotting wood may also harbor ticks. If your yard already had ticks, you may need an exterminator. Protect your dog with a topical preventative, or with a special flea and tick collar. There are also special wipes that can help limit ticks on your pet.

You might also try a tick trap, as described on the Canine Health Foundation website. Put dry ice in a foam container, punch holes in the container so that the carbon dioxide can escape, then place the container on a board that you have wrapped in masking tape, sticky side up. The ticks will be drawn to the carbon dioxide and will become trapped on the tape.

Sorry. I need another time out. My scalp prickles, my ankles itch, and I am trying to reach a spot between my shoulder blades.

One website suggested making tick suits for dogs that were going to be in tall grass. Take an old T-shirt to cover your dog’s body, and cut up old socks to make coverings for the legs. This won’t entirely protect your dog, but it will help.

Another piece of advice: if you think you’ve picked up ticks on your clothes, throw them in the dryer for 15 minutes on high heat before washing. The heat will kill the ticks. Water won’t.

Now I need to scratch all over, and then jump in the shower. I don’t have ticks, but it will make me feel much, much better.