If you’re like me and have ever felt or seen a tick crawling on you or your dog, or worse, dragged its stubborn little body out of one of you, I bet you probably despise these little blood sucking rascals. They are nasty, ugly pests that transmit serious diseases to both humans and pets. Among the myriad of transmitted diseases, one is Lyme disease, and April has been named National Prevent Lyme Disease in Dogs Month by the American Lyme Disease Foundation (http://www.aldf.com/).
Unfortunately, much of the research and public health information that exists is based on East Coast ecology and may not apply to our area. Unfortunately, according to the Bay Area Lyme Foundation (https://www.bayarealyme.org/), Lyme-infected ticks have been found in 42 of the 58 counties of California, with Trinity, Humboldt and Mendocino being the most common. About 100 cases of Lyme disease are reported in California each year. However, according to the California Department of Health, the disease is likely to be more prevalent due to the underdiagnosis and underreporting of the disease.
California has three major species of tick: the Pacific coast tick (Dermacentor occidentalis), the American dog tick (D. variabilis), and the western black-legged tick (Ixodes pacificus). In addition to Lyme disease, ticks can transmit the microbial pathogens that cause relapsing fever, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia, Pacific coast tick fever, and anaplasmosis, a potentially fatal disease that can infect both humans and pets.
If you or your dog are often outdoors, a few simple precautions can help reduce the risk of the disease. The first is to learn how to spot a tick. The immature form, known as a nymph, is about the size of a poppy (1/25 of an inch long). It has eight legs, a dark brown-black plate on its back, and a light, translucent belly, and is most active in spring and early summer. Nymphs are often found on logs, grasses, fallen branches, low-growing shrubs, and among the damp leaves that accumulate under trees. An adult is approximately 1/8 of an inch long, has long mouthpieces, brownish-black legs, a dark brown-black plate that covers the front half of their back, and a red-orange belly. Feeding ticks can stretch to a length of almost 1 cm. The adults are typically found in open grass or chaparral along the vegetative boundaries of hillside paths and in other areas with deer populations.
While keeping ticks at bay is almost impossible, there are a few steps you can take to minimize the chances of your pet getting bitten. The first is to consult your veterinarian to determine which tick repellent is best. Certain factors such as age, breed and animal health influence the type and dosage of the product used. There are several effective ones for pets. Some examples are the Seresto collar, Advantix, Frontline Plus, Vectra 3D and Nexgard. If you use either of these, watch out for signs of possible side effects such as anxiety, excessive scratching, skin irritation, vomiting, diarrhea, or other abnormal behavior. If you see any of these signs, contact your veterinarian right away.
Since even the best repellants may not prevent these animals from attaching themselves to your beloved companion, it is imperative that a tick check become part of your dog’s daily routine. To do this, simply run your fingers slowly over his entire body and carefully examine any areas where ticks are hiding, e.g. B. between the toes, under the armpits, the insides of the ears and around the face and chin. If you feel a swollen area, there may be a tick buried there.
If you find one on your pet, you need to get it removed ASAP. Since ticks can transmit disease to humans, I would recommend wearing gloves to avoid any contact with your skin. Use tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. After grasping, pull outward in a straight, steady motion making sure you’ve removed all of the tick as anything that is left behind can cause an infection. Do not twist the tick as you pull it out, as this may cause the mouth parts to break off. Discard it in a small container with isopropyl alcohol, as the alcohol will quickly kill the offending varmint. Finally, clean the skin with a mild antiseptic solution of povidone iodine.
In addition to keeping an eye on the area where the tick was attached to see if an infection is developing, you should also keep an eye out for possible symptoms of a tick-borne disease. Symptoms can include lameness, decreased activity, joint swelling, fever, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, loss of appetite, weight loss, difficulty breathing, and neurological problems. Note that Lyme disease can infect horses, cattle, and cats in addition to dogs and humans.
For more information, please contact the American Veterinary Medical Association (https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/petcare/lyme-disease-pet-owners-guide), the University of California Agriculture & Natural Resources (http : //ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7485.html) and the California Department of Health (https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/LymeDisease.aspx) websites. In addition, confirmed cases of Lyme disease reported by County of Residence, California, 2010-2019, as well as other vector-borne diseases reported on this website (https://westnile.ca.gov/pdfs/VBDSAnnualReport19.pdf) can be viewed.
Ronnie Casey has been volunteering at the Tehama County Animal Care Center since moving in 2011. As a retired RN, she works to help animals in need in Tehama County. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.