Ticks: The other creepy hitchhiker

By DR. FRED SELF / Veterinarian

A lot is made in the summertime about the fleas that live on our pets. They are creepy and hard to find. Once you find them they can be hard to kill. However, they are not the only parasite that likes to cling to the outside of our pets. The tick also likes to make an appearance this time of year.

While the flea uses speed and agility to hide and evade capture, the tick uses inactivity as a form of stealth. By grabbing our pets and being very still, ticks are able to hide in plain sight. Because their appearance resembles the skin and coat color of our pets, they simply have to stay in place to prevent detection. They also tend to pick the ear as a favorite hiding spot. The ear is fleshy and full of wrinkles. This provides camouflage and good places to take hold. The ear also tends to have a good blood supply close to the surface, making for an easy meal.

Even though it may seem disgusting to have a tick attached to you or your pet, it is more important what the attached tick may be injecting into you or your pet. Ticks can carry several different diseases called “tick-borne diseases.” In human medicine, and sometimes in veterinary medicine, there is importance placed on what type of tick is found attached to the skin. Often it is believed that the type of tick will determine which tick-borne diseases may be present. While this may be important, it is more important to find and remove ticks before, or within 24 hours after, their attaching to the skin. The actual transfer of diseases can take up to 24 hours to begin. Removing a tick soon after it attaches can prevent disease transfer.

Another way of contracting diseases from ticks is by eating one. This is not a big problem for humans, but for our pets who routinely groom themselves by mouth, eating a tick can happen.

There are two important things to keep in mind about controlling ticks. First, find them. Second, and most importantly, remove them safely. To avoid contact with fluids from the ticks that can carry disease, use tweezers to grasp the tick close to the head and then pull it away from the skin. Once the tick is removed, wash both your hands and the tweezers with soap.

Keep a close watch so that neither you nor your pet carry around any unwanted hitchhikers this summer!

Dr. Fred Self is a veterinarian at Shelbiana Animal Clinic in Columbiana, along with Dr. Charles Thornburg. You can reach the clinic at 669-7717.