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Minnesota Veterinary Hospital Blog

Ticks -- ICK!

2020-05-12

Remember the book The Secret Life of Bees? If you’ve read it, you know it shines quite a bit of light onto how complex and fascinating those little buzzers are. Well, we just want to take a moment and tell you that there will likely never be a Secret Life of Ticks, but if there were, it would be a horror story. Why? Ticks are just just “ick,” and they’re dangerous to our innocent pets.
 

Just What Makes Ticks One of the World’s Least Liked Creatures?
 

1. Ticks Are Blood-Suckers

You likely already know that ticks survive off the blood of their hosts, but what makes them even more disgusting and dangerous is just how they go about consuming their blood buffet.

Once a tick finds a prime spot to latch onto, it will grab the surface of the skin and begin slicing the surface. Then the tick will push its straw-like feeding tube into the opening. This tube, depending on the species, can have barbs to hold it in place, or the tick may release a chemical substance that works like glue to help hold it.

After prepping the dinner table (i.e. your or your pet’s skin), the tick then releases an anesthetic to numb the area. Then, like a person trying to make the most of a free buffet coupon, the tick will dine for days.
 

2. Ticks Spread Serious Diseases

To make a tick’s feeding process even grosser, it’s important to remember that they carry and spread diseases. How many unique diseases do ticks carry? Sixteen, which is more than we can list here. Though, the most important to know about include Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Both of these diseases can infect people, pets, and wildlife. 

Lyme disease is painful for people, dogs, and cats, and it can lead to lameness and even kidney failure if left undiagnosed. 

Rocky Mountain spotted fever leaves pets feeling miserable. It causes a plethora of symptoms including joint pain, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, swollen limbs, and depression. In severe cases, a pet may even experience gangrene.
 

3. Infection Rates from Tick-Borne Disease Continue to Climb

Lyme disease rates have crept higher and higher since the 1990s. Other tick-borne diseases also steadily increase, according to the CDC. In fact, there are twice many cases of tick-borne diseases than in the ‘90s, and Lyme disease increased by 300% between 1993 and 2012.

More frightening, yet, is the fact that new diseases and dangerous pathogens carried by ticks are being readily discovered. This includes seven in the U.S. over the past twenty years.

Additionally, the range in which cases are reported continues to expand. There have been cases of Lyme disease in all fifty states.
 

Protect Yourself and Your Pets Against Icky Ticks

There’s just no doing away with ticks, permanently. And if it makes you feel a bit better, there are some heroes out there, like the possum, that enjoy eating these yucky bugs. Until possums can sniff out and eat each tick, it’s vital to protect yourself and your pet.

Prevent the “ick” by

  • Provide your pet a prescription tick preventative. This is the best way to protect your pet from tick-borne diseases.
  • Avoid walking your dog in tall grass and decomposing leaves
  • Always check your dog’s coat and feet after walks or after your cat reenters the house, including under the collar
  • Comb and inspect your cat or dog’s coat regularly
  • Carefully remove any ticks you find on your cat or dog using tweezers and a steady grip as close to the tick’s head as possible. Flush the tick afterward.
  • Always check yourself thoroughly after hikes or time in nature
     

Don’t Give Ticks a Fighting Chance

We want you to make the most of your spring. So, before you give up gardening or decide you no longer like nature hikes, schedule an appointment. We can help you decide which tick prevention is best for your pet.

Image credit:  BushAlex / iStock / Getty Images Plus