Today something a little different as ticks are a problem for both humans and their pets.
Pet/Family Health – Ticks – What, When and How to remove safely
Ticks are nasty little blood suckers officially part of the arachnid family in the sub directory of parasitiformes. They may be small only a few millimetres in length, but once they attach themselves to usually warm-blooded mammals (although sometimes reptiles) they swell up to many times their original size.
You have to give them some merit since apparently they have been around for over 100 million years and usually inhabit the warmer parts of the globe, and unlike most of us they like it humid. They come in two main forms – hard or soft.
- Both have a beak either as part of their mouth at the front of the body in the hard variety or their underbelly in the soft ticks.
- They have great hunting skills and are attracted to their prey by smell, body heat and vibrations.
- Because they are blood ingesting and move freely between their hosts, they can infect both animals and humans with dangerous diseases.
The ticks we come into contact with are usually female and the male dies after mating. Unlike fleas they do not jump onto their hosts, but reach out and crawl on or in the cases of dogs and cats, onto the fur and then attach themselves to the skin.
We used to go to the beach twice a day for long walks. But it was the sand dunes which was where the danger lay as there was an active colony of rabbits which were tick magnets. We learned the hard way and with Sam’s shaggy coat he had a number of encounters in his first year before we realised where he was being infected.
People too get tick bites and I had one when I was walking a lot in the hills in Wales when I was in my 20s. Luckily I spotted it early and removed it and that can be tricky when they have their beak embedded in your flesh. Great care has to be taken to remove all the tick to avoid infection. (More about safe removal later)
- It is best to avoid high grassy areas especially if they are grazed by sheep for example particularly between May and September.
- Walking on trails through woods also needs care as there are quite a few smaller mammals such as squirrels, rabbits and weasels that are ticks main diet. Dogs and children for example do love to leap around in leaf piles and other tick hiding places.
- Always wear protective clothing.. long sleeves and trousers and avoid open-toed shoes; which were how I got bitten.
Some tick bites are harmless and if you make sure the head is removed from the bite and treat with antiseptic there should be no side-effects. There are however some more serious complications including Lyme disease. Although post is primarily about pets because you tend to frequent the same areas as your dog, you are also at risk.
About Lyme disease
- The disease is a vector-borne disease which means that is passed to the host by another living organism such as a flea, tick, mosquito, flies etc.
- The early symptoms of the disease is a red rash around the site of a bite about a week after you have been targeted as the infected mouth parts of the parasite come into contact with the blood of its host.
- Some people are severely allergic to insect bites and would experience swelling around the bite site and shortness of breath that needs to be treated immediately.
- As well as a rash some people will experience a fever, headache and extreme fatigue.
- More severe infections can lead to some temporary paralysis, joint pains and heart palpitations, sensitivity to light and brain fog.
- Unfortunately for some the symptoms become cyclical and return months or even years later, particularly if the immune system becomes compromised.
Children tend to be at greater risk of getting a tick bite and also of an infection and particularly if they live in a rural or wooded area. Always a good idea to check them daily when they come in from playing to make sure they have not picked up a tick…
The treatment is by antibiotics and if you have been bitten by a tick and have removed all of the body and head, put in a container, as it might be helpful to have tested to determine the bacterial profile. With a child who has been bitten I suggest going to the doctor immediately.
The treatment is currently a number of weeks or oral anti-biotics but in some cases where the disease returns it will require further doses.
How to safely remove a tick from your pet.
- Unfortunately finding a tick on your dog or cat can be a challenge as the parasite can hide in a number of fur covered places on their bodies.
- They usually have their faces down in to grass or bushes so start at the nose end and run your fingers under the chin, inside the lips, up to the ears and check inside too.
- Splay your fingers and run them through the fur all around the neck and down the chest checking the junctions of the forelegs.
- Down the front legs and then check between the toes.
- Back up and check the stomach and junctions between the body and back legs.
- Down the back legs and check the toes.
- Then check all along the back and sides and the tail.
How to remove the tick
- You should be wearing gloves so you do not pick up an infection through a cut etc.
- You can use eyebrow tweezers or there are specialised tweezers for ticks.
- Wash the site with soap and water
- Add antiseptic lotion to clean the wound. I used iodine which is great for disinfecting skin infections.
- Antibiotic ointment.. I used hydrocortisone cream
- A jar containing surgical spirit to keep the tick in should you vet need to check at some point.
It is easier to show rather than tell …. So here are some videos for human tick removal from neil fisher
and for dogs thanks to Top Dog Tips
©2021 Sally Cronin
I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty-three years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.
If you would like to browse my health books and fiction you can find them here: :Sally’s books and reviews
Thank you for dropping in today and your feedback and questions are very welcome.. thanks Sally.