Spring has sprung! Hooray! However, with the return of wonderful spring and warmer months, it also brings the return of sneaky little ticks! Ticks are alive and thriving during all seasons, but as we venture back into the woods they are anxious to see us again for the start of camping season. These guys love to stowaway and grab a free ride on you when you’re out hiking, camping and trekking through the woods. Ticks also love your favorite furry friends, and can cause a lot of problems for both humans and dogs alike. Here are some great tips for protecting yourself and your dog against ticks this season.
What Are Ticks?
For anyone who is not familiar with ticks, they are small insects classified as arthropods: invertebrates with external skeletons and jointed legs but they’re neither insects nor spiders. They belong to a special group of mites; all ticks are mites but not all mites are ticks. These sneaky bugs are parasites who feed on and require blood (your blood!) to develop and produce eggs. Ticks will use their mouths to burrow in your skin, or your dog’s skin. They steal the blood they need and will gorge themselves until you discover either a fat greedy tick attached to you or a strange an itchy red spot where one has dined and dashed already. There are hard ticks and soft ticks with different body features, allowing them to gorge more quickly or slowly and different life cycles. Ticks can carry many diseases and infections that are harmful to humans and our canine companions.
Checking Yourself and Others
Anytime you come out of the woods or after a hike you always should remember to check yourself and your friends and pets for ticks. Checking each other for ticks is easier and more efficient than just checking yourself! These parasites are small enough to hide just about anywhere, so be thorough in your search. Check your hair and scalp, and in the folds of your clothing. Also behind your ears, belly button, in between your toes, and other areas they may go undetected. You don’t want to release any stragglers in to your home who’ve been hitching a ride all day so check yourself outside if possible. One tip is to use a lint roller to roll all over your clothes once you get home, or consider wearing long clothing to protect your skin.
Ticks also love our furry friends as much as we do. They will latch on to a dog’s skin, and gorge themselves often without the dog noticing. If they haven’t bitten your dog they might hitch a ride in your home to look for you and your blood later – perhaps even while you sleep! Eeek! Be sure to use proper medication approved by your vet to help defend your dog against ticks, especially if the two of you love the outdoors together! If your dog has longer hair, be sure to feel up and down for any small bumps that may be a tick. Check behind ears, and in between toes and on bellies for any that may have gotten overlooked.
How to Remove a Tick Properly
It’s hard to fight the urge to rip a scary tick off the second you find one on your or your dog. However, there is a proper way to remove a tick. There are several tick removal devices that are now on the market, but a set of fine tipped tweezers will work perfectly. You want to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible, and pull upward with even pressure avoiding any twisting or jerking that could result in some of the tick’s mouth parts behind left behind in your skin. Do not squeeze a tick’s body to remove it, as you could push some infected fluid from the tick back into your own body! To kill the tick you can submerge it in rubbing alcohol. Do not crush the tick with your finger. Consider putting the suspect in a plastic bag or taping the dead tick to an index card for identification later if you were bitten.
Ticks are not only terrifying and nasty little parasites, they can also cause a range of serious health problems. Lyme Disease is one of the most serious and common health risks linked with tick bites. It can be difficult to diagnose, and cause a wide range of symptoms from fevers and rash to facial paralysis. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is also caused by tick bites and can cause serious damage to your internal organs. Our canine friends are also susceptible to contracting these diseases from ticks as well, so everyone in the family needs to be double checked and protected after any time spent outdoors!
We love being outside every chance we get and so do our pups. Ticks also enjoy the great outdoors and want to make you and your family their next meal! Don’t let them take advantage by wearing long clothing, double checking all over your body and your dogs, and removing any ticks properly and as quickly as possible after any outdoor adventure.