Monday, April 22, 2024

Ticks are a problem for our pets, and they can be for humans, too

by Dr. Fred Conkel — Commentary
| September 20, 2013 12:07 PM

Everyone  likes something new, but a new disease is not on anyone’s wish list. Lyme Disease, first recognized in Old Lyme, Conn., was not a welcome guest.

 Lyme Disease is caused by a micro-organism that is carried by ticks (most frequently the deer tick). These ticks are smaller than the common wood ticks or brown dog ticks. They are found in much the same habitat (brush and woods).  Ticks cling to any creature that walks through the foliage that they wait in. 

 Once on an animal or person, they seek out a spot to feed on.  As they bite into the skin for their blood meal, the skin often reacts by swelling slightly around the tick.  This gives the appearance of the tick being “burrowed in” when it is only the back end of the tiny tick that is visable. These ticks are very hard to see on pets that are covered with hair. 

 We may never know whether a dog or cat has been bitten by deer ticks or may be carrying deer ticks.  Once the ticks have had their blood meal, they drop off of the animal.  This may happen outside or it may happen in the house where carpets and bedding may become home to the ticks.

 If the ticks are carrying Lyme Disease, they may infect the host that they feed upon. In a relatively hairless creature like man, a small red and white lesion similiar to a bull’s-eye target often appears.  This is not usually visible on a furry dog or cat. If a person suspects that they may have been bitten by a deer tick or may have been exposed to Lyme Disease, they should quickly see their physician. 

 Once the signs of the disease begin to appear (fever, shifting joint pain or heart disorders), the disease is very hard to eliminate. The signs may not appear until months after the tick has gone.

 It is far better to try to prevent the disease in some pets. We may keep the pets away from areas that have ticks. In areas where pets are exposed, we can use a good, effective tick repellent on the animals.  

We may also go over the pet daily with a comb and with our hands to try to detect ticks. If a tick is found feeding on a pet, it may be sprayed with the appropriate product or removed by grasping the tick’s head with forcepts or tweezers. The tick should not be removed by fingers because even blood from the tick may be infective to the person removing it.  

Any ticks removed from an animal should be sprayed to avoid having them come around again. 

(Dr. Fred Conkel is veterinarian at the Westgate Clinic.)