Ticks are like little ugly vampires. They survive by sucking blood. They can make you and your dog sick and some of the nasty diseases they carry are deadly. It is hard to imagine that something so small can be so dangerous. I’m huge and I’m not dangerous. Then again, I’m not a vampire dog. Vampire dogs are probably dangerous, so avoid them.
Ticks have fat little round bodies, and tiny little legs, so you may be surprised to know that they are most closely related to spiders and scorpions. They are part of the arachnid family but they are so weird that they only have eight legs some of the time. During their larval stage, they only have six. Some ticks take three years to go through all their cycles of growth, and have to feed from three or more different hosts before they become adults. A female tick can lay hundreds or even a thousand eggs over her lifetime. So, once you get an infestation, you may be fighting an army of little parasitic soldiers. Mexico has over one hundred tick species, they are happy to suck the blood of wild animals, domestic animals like me, and humans. They even bite crocodiles, and they don’t even have teeth.
Studies done in Yucatan have found that ticks locally carry Rickettsioses, which is a bacteria responsible for a number of serious diseases in dogs and humans such as erlichiosis, anaplasmosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. In one study of dogs in Yucatan, forty four percent of the dogs tested were positive to canine erlichiosis. This is pretty scary because canine erlichiosis is a terrible disease.
Canine erlichiosis can have almost no symptoms at all and the symptoms it does have can be very mild. Often humans don’t notice them at all. Dogs can lose their appetite a little bit, become a little lethargic, and sometimes have a fever. Many owners just think their dogs are hot that day, or tired. Sometimes the symptoms will just disappear and never bother the dog again, but in many cases they come back and can quickly kill the dog. Weight loss, bleeding, especially through the nose, fever, and auto immune problems are common symptoms in dogs that have chronic erlichiosis. Once it gets to this stage it can be very difficult to treat. That is why it is so important to catch it early, when it is easily treated with a common antibiotic called Doxycycline.
There are a number of tests for canine erlichiosis that can be performed by your vet, but it is important to know that in early periods of infection, before a dog has produced antibodies, these can come up with a false negative. So, some vets will opt for being better safe than sorry and prescribe a course of antibiotics just in case as allowing the disease to linger is a very bad idea.
Now that I’ve scared all you humans with some information about ticks and tick borne diseases, I’m here to reassure you that there are ways to protect your dogs from ticks. The cheapest and most effective method is during daily grooming. All dog owners should, as part of the very basic care of their dog, examine their dog every single day for parasites, injuries, and other issues. This should be a pleasant interaction that you and your dog can enjoy while you relax together. It is essential to do this even more diligently if your dog has been walking in grassy areas or the woods.
If you find a tick, there are different suggestions for removal but doing it early is the most important thing. It is unlikely your dog will catch a deadly tick disease if you remove the tick within the first thirty six hours. During removal, make sure not to squeeze the tick as this can cause it to force bacteria into your dog and infect it. Tweezers are very helpful if used correctly. If you don’t know how to do this or feel uncomfortable about it, ask your vet. They will be more than happy to assist.
Really, it is best to prevent ticks from attaching to your dog at all. Humans, please let me explain something. I don’t like nasty chemicals and poisons any more than you do, but I also don’t like the idea of dying a painful and horrible death due to tick fever. Yes, there are some natural repellants, but please make sure you check with your vet before using one. Many things like essential oils can be as toxic to dogs as they are repellent to ticks. Unfortunately, repellants aren’t good enough. We deserve to be properly protected from these nasty little creatures.
There are some very good flea and tick collar brands like Seresto that are known to be very effective against ticks. There are also a ton of not very good tick collars that you can buy in pet shops and supermarkets. Not only are you wasting your money using these, but you are putting your dog in danger, so please make sure that you are buying flea and tick collar brands that have real science to back up their efficacy. There are also some very effective topical and oral treatments. If you love your dog make sure that you are using good quality products, recommended by veterinary surgeons.
If you live on a property with your dogs where you have a problem with ticks, then you really do need to get a good exterminator to help you. And, if all else fails, and you have the space, you can always get Guinea fowl or chickens. They love eating ticks and are the most natural way to control them.
Please don’t forget your kitties either. They too, can suffer terribly from tick borne disease, so please make sure they are protected with appropriate tick treatments.
It’s weird to think that such a tiny bug could cause so much sickness and death, but they do. Taking them seriously before they give your dog a deadly disease will save you on expensive veterinary bills in the future.
Ticks collected from humans, domestic animals, and wildlife in Yucatan, Mexico R.I. Rodríguez-Vivas a,∗, D.A. Apanaskevichb, M.M Ojeda-Chi a, I. Trinidad-Martínez a, E. Reyes-Noveloc, M.D. Esteve-Gassent d, A.A. Pérez de Leóne
Ehrlichia canis in dogs in Yucatan, Mexico: Seroprevalence, prevalence of infection and associated factors
Roger Ivan Rodriguez Vivas
Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán