Ticks are such small insects that it is easy to mistake them as harmless. They usually live in tall grass and sometimes even in cracks and crevices of houses and kennels. Tick menace is at its worst during periods of weather change. This is generally when they seek a host. Warm temperatures are also conducive to their growth. They feed on the dog’s blood and may drop off when they are full. But this may take a few days to happen.
To think that they only cause scratching and irritation to our pet dogs and cats is quite misleading. Tick seeds, that is the newborn ticks, can infest in numbers as high as 30,000! Ticks are carriers of many serious diseases, some even deadly. Weak or elderly dogs, puppies, and cats are particularly endangered and can die from anemia from a sudden influx of seed ticks. The diseases that ticks can transmit to companion animals include Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis (a bacterial infection), and babesiosis (a blood disorder).
Out of the above, Tick Fever, or erhlichiosis, is the most common disease and is also potentially fatal. It is caused by organisms called rickettsiae, which are passed on to the dog by the common dog tick. These organisms live within the dog’s blood cells, causing internal and external bleeding, loss of appetite, fever, exhaustion, limb pains, lameness and paralysis. In the chronic form of this fever, the same symptoms continue, but much more severely. Acute cases cause death of the animal. Humans can also get tick fever in the same way dogs do — by getting bitten from a brown dog tick. Thankfully, humans can’t catch tick fever from an infected dog.
Apart from tick fever, many of these diseases are incurable. It is best to get rid of the ticks as soon as you track them on the dog’s body. When you spot a tick, gently pull it out till it lets go. Pulling it out suddenly is not a good idea. You should wait for the tick to let go of its grip on the dog. Once out, it is best to destroy it. If you feel uncomfortable doing that, wrap it in tissue paper and flush it down the toilet.
For a more serious attack of ticks, you may need to use some of the products available in the market. Regular use of anti-tick shampoos offers prevention as well as cure. One can also use anti-tick powder. With puppies however, use of both the shampoo and the powder can be dangerous because they are at risk of licking them. You can also put anti-tick collars on your dog which repels ticks from attaching onto them. If the use of these products does not bring relief, it is best to take your dog to the vet. He or she may need to give a shot to the dog in extreme cases.
Lastly, the best way to protect your pet and yourself is to keep it and its environment clean. Regular baths and everyday brushing are of immense help!
This article was supplied by Swati Varma.