You may not know this: there are hard ticks and soft ticks. Soft ticks generally don’t bother with humans or animals and, therefore, don’t spread disease to us and our furry friends like hard ticks do. The main difference in the ticks is the presence of a scutum which is a hard “plate” found on the back of hard ticks. A soft tick’s mouthparts are found on the underside of its body while the hard tick’s mouthparts can be seen from above.
Did you know this? Hard ticks go on quests to find their blood meal. They will travel up on blades of grass or other plants, stretch out their limbs, and grab onto any passing victim. This behavior is called questing. Ticks don’t jump or drop onto people or animals.
You probably already knew this: Hard ticks transmit many different diseases to people and also to animals. Ticks are responsible for transmitting Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Tularemia, Colorado tick fever, Human tick-borne ehrlichiosis, American babesiosis, Tick paralysis, STARI (Southern tick-associated rash illness), and Anaplasmosis. The symptoms of many of these diseases may not occur until weeks or months after a tick bite. Antibiotics are usually required for longer than 2 weeks to treat the diseases completely.
Signs of a tick disease include: stiffness, lameness, swollen joints or limbs, loss of appetite, fever, fatigue, depression, weight loss, runny eyes and nose, nose bleeds, stiff joints, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, neurological problems, skin lesions, anemia, pale gums, weakness, intermittent lameness, muscle pain, heart disease, and liver disease. The wide array of symptoms along with the delay in onset of symptoms can make diagnosing tick diseases more difficult.
Where ticks are concerned, prevention is definitely best medicine. We recommended having your pets on a tick prevention if they are likely to be in contact with ticks. There are a variety of preventions available; some kill ticks on contact and others kill ticks after they have taken a blood meal. The tick preventions can be applied topically, worn in collar form, or taken by mouth. Your pet (and yourself) should be checked for the presence of ticks after any outing near potentially tick infested areas. These little hitchhikers can even be found after trips to the dog park. For the most part, ticks like to hang around overgrown weedy or grassy areas, in brush, and in wooded areas.
If you find a tick on your pet, it should be removed as soon as possible to limit the potential for disease. The longer a tick stays attached, the greater the chance for a disease to be transmitted. To remove a tick, use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. Pull upward with steady pressure. Place the tick in alcohol in a sealed container or flush down the toilet. Crushing the tick can release disease causing bacteria. Clean the tick bite area with alcohol, iodine, or soap and water. You may want to note the date on a calendar in case any symptoms occur in the weeks and months following. This may help determine if a tick disease is to blame.
Photo courtesy of the CDC.