Ticks may be the last thing you want to think about when you spend time outdoors with your furry sidekick, but these little suckers can be easy to miss if you don’t know what to look out for. Ticks are small arachnids, just like spiders, and ticks also require blood to complete their life cycles. Because ticks are always on the hunt for a warm-blooded meal, the odds are pretty big that you’ll find one hidden on your pet (or even on yourself) after a day spent in the fresh air.
Are ticks dangerous to your pets?
Short answer? You bet.
Earlier this year, Ollie, a Shetland sheepdog from Portland showed us just how dangerous these tiny arachnids can be.
Shortly after returning home from a camping trip with his family, Ollie’s owners noticed a serious change in his behavior. Ollie had trouble eating, was extremely lethargic and eventually lost most of his mobility. His concerned owners took him to the vet for a series of blood tests, X-rays and urine tests but could not find a diagnosis. Ollie was given medication, but only continued to deteriorate. As Ollie’s condition worsened and no diagnosis or treatment was in sight, his owners were faced with the terrible decision of whether Ollie was comfortable enough to continue living in this condition. His family ultimately decided against putting Ollie through unnecessary pain and discomfort and took him to the vet to be euthanized.
Moments before Ollie was to be euthanized, an intern at the vet clinic noticed he had a tick behind one of his ears. Dr. Adam Stone, Ollie’s vet, remembered learning about a rare condition called tick paralysis in vet school. Could a tick be causing all of Ollie’s health issues?
The tick was removed and Ollie was sent home. A short ten hours later, Ollie showed major signs of improvement and today he is symptom free and back to his usual routine.
With tick season in full-swing, we checked in with an expert to learn more about the dangers of ticks and how to prevent, treat and remove them so you can keep your pets as healthy as possible this summer.
Other than tick paralysis, what dangers to ticks pose?
Dr. Marcus Smith, DVM, of Chattahoochee Animal Clinic informs us that “a tick has the ability to transmit multiple types of severe disease, such as Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Scientists recently have found that the ticks can spread Powassan virus, which is more severe than Lyme disease.”
Not all ticks are dangerous or transmit diseases. But it takes just one bite from an infected tick to transfer a dangerous disease to your pet.
When and how often should you check your pet for ticks?
Ticks live in grassy and shrubby areas. Try to avoid areas where tick populations may be high. If you can’t avoid these areas, then make sure you do a thorough inspection of your pet’s fur for unwanted visitors.
“Removing the tick before it’s able to embed into your pet’s skin is the best way to prevent potential disease transmission. I think it is prudent to do a tick check after the pet has been exposed to any risk area for ticks. This is usually wooded areas or areas of high brush,” says Dr. Smith. During the spring and summer, try to do a tick check on your pet before coming indoors.
Where should you check for ticks on your pet?
Are there particular places ticks like to hide? “Honestly, the correct answer is everywhere,” says Dr. Smith. “Our staff has the most success finding ticks around the ear area and between the digits of the paw. Some ticks can be quite difficult to find until they have filled up on a blood meal.”
For ticks that have not embedded yet, you can still find them by brushing your fingers through your pet’s fur, applying enough pressure to feel any small bumps. Because ticks can harbor diseases, you need to put on a pair of latex gloves before you start the inspection. Don’t forget to check under the armpits, tail and head too.