Neuse River Golden Retiever Rescue
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Neuse River Golden Retiever Rescue

Tick Talk

by User Not Found | Apr 16, 2012

Before we begin, some “fun facts” to recap

  1.  A single flea can drink 15 times their weight in blood each day1
  2. You can buy 11 years of heartworm prevention and pay less than the cost of treating your dog one time for heartworm disease2


And this week…..we pay homage to the Brad Paisley song…I’d like to check you for ticks.  Now I’m not a country music fan, but there’s no way that song won’t get stuck in your head.  Maybe that’s a good thing.  We’ve covered the need for protection against fleas and ticks for your dog, but given the fact that our dogs are exposed to them practically everywhere they go, you still need to check them.  A common misconception about Ticks is that they come from trees, which is not true.  Ticks will climb to the tips of grasses and shrubs to wait for a person or animal to brush by and pick them up.  They can then crawl, not fly or jump, and prepare for dinner in a nice warm, dark location like your dog’s armpit or between their toes.  I don’t know about you but I always need another excuse to sit down on the floor with my dog and pet them and love them.  Belly scratches lower everybody’s blood pressure.


This is also a great way to get your dog used to exams, especially puppies.  This will make your trips to the vet much more enjoyable.  You will need to check ears, armpits, in between the toes, the lower belly and around the base of the tail.  Those are the good spots, nice and warm and toasty for little tick hitchhikers.  That’s not to say they won’t show up other places, but those are good places to start.  You may need to look carefully, especially if you are good about checking them every day.  Young ticks can be as small as a fleck of pepper, but adults can be the size of small pencil eraser, but only once they start feeding.  The best thing to do is to remove them immediately.  Never use a match or nail polish or petroleum jelly to cover a tick.  Always use a pair of tweezers and grip it as close to the skin as possible and gently but firmly pull the tick straight out.  Don’t twist or jerk and try not to use your bare hands.  Squishing a tick in your bare hands causes the gooey stuff to get all over you and that’s where those nasty little diseases live.  If you don’t have tweezers, use a Kleenex or paper towel.  You can dispose of them in a bowl of soapy water or alcohol and then flush ‘em!  A friend of mine and fellow NRGRR volunteer also told me about a handy little tool.  And thanks to the design, I never leave home without it.  It’s called a Tick Key.  They sell them online of course, but also at your local camping/fishing outfitters.  They don’t work great on the teeny tiny ticks, but I’ve removed ticks from humans and dogs after hiking with this little device.  It attaches to your key chain, so I always have it close by.


There are many types of ticks and each type has the potential to carry a different disease.  Remember when we talked about Zoonotics?  Humans and pets can get diseases from ticks.  Now ticks don’t actually cause the disease, they just carry the little buggers that do.  They transmit disease causing bacteria or bugs when they bite.  Different kinds of ticks carry different kinds of diseases.  Some examples that you have probably heard about are Lyme Disease, Erlichiosis and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.  As cute as those names sound, they aren’t particularly enjoyable for you or a pet.  The Lone Star Tick, easily identified by the white dot on its back, can transmit Erlichiosis.  The blacklegged tick or deer tick can transmit Lyme Disease and the American dog tick typically carries Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.  Ticks can bite humans and pass the disease just as they can bite your dog and do the same, however you can’t get Lyme Disease from a dog with Lyme Disease and in the same token, your other dogs, they can’t “catch” Lyme Disease from him/her either.  The bacteria that cause disease, must be transmitted by the tick, and the tick carrying that bacteria must bite you directly.  Make sense?


There are a lot of theories about how long the tick actually needs to be attached to transmit the disease.  Ranges are anywhere from 24 to 36 hours, but the general consensus seems to agree that at least 24 hours are needed.  Good news if you’re checking your dog frequently and humming that song that’s stuck in your head.  Just as a precaution, should you find a swelling tick on you or your dog, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on them and make sure they are acting “normal”.  If not, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have them checked out and make sure you let your vet know you found a couple ticks.  Signs of tick diseases are joint pain and weakness, lethargy, and sometimes fever.  There is a vaccine available for Lyme Disease, however it is only recommended for pets who are at high risk and is something you can talk to your vet about.  In most cases, it’s not necessary.


And so concludes our chat about tiny little vampires.  You are now ready to face the spring and summer head on unafraid of these microscopic adversaries.  Your pups will thank you.


Cheers and Happy Hunting!


1 Dryden MW, Gaafar, SM. Blood consumption by the cat flea.  Ctenocephalides felis  Med Entomol  1991; 28 394-400.

2 The cost of heartworm treatment for a 50lb dog can be $1,000; in comparison, 12 months of prevention cost about $80.  Analysis was done by Wendy S. Myers, Communcations Solutions for Veterinarians, Inc.

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