While robins may be a welcome sign of spring, ticks are generally a dreaded part of the same season.
In Wisconsin, there are 16 reported species of ticks. Only a few of those species feed on humans and most of the others are rarely discussed.
Ticks are arachnids and therefore relatives of spiders. Locally, two ticks reign as the leading culprits for bites on humans and animals.
The blacklegged tick, more commonly known as the deer tick, is typically more troublesome as it can be a vessel for several diseases including Lyme’s disease, ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, and Powassan virus infection. The deer tick is also a much smaller tick, than the American dog tick, more commonly known as the wood tick, making it harder to detect.
Deer ticks have a two-year life cycle. During this cycle, the tick will generally have three blood meals, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
Usually, deer ticks feast upon small mammals, birds and deer. Once attached to their host, the tick will generally feed for three to five days. However, it is usually only nymphs and adult female deer ticks that are able to transmit most tick-borne diseases to humans.
Unable to jump or fly, ticks find themselves most at home in wooded, brushy areas, that are best for providing food and cover for small animals and deer. The brushy environment allows the tick to attach at ground level or crawl onto animals or people as they brush against the vegetation.
People should be extra vigilant during warmer months from April through September, when ticks are most active, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Bathing or showering as soon as possible after coming indoors makes it easier to find and wash off ticks that are crawling on you, the CDC suggests.
Conducting a full body check is also a good measure to take in tick defense. Parents are reminded to check for ticks on their children under their arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waste and especially thoroughly in their hair the CDC website states.
Tumbling clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour is also said to kill off remaining ticks.
Let us not forget our four legged furry friends during these tick times. Dogs especially are very susceptible to tick bites and tick-borne diseases according to the CDC. Vaccines are not available for all tick borne diseases that dogs can get, and dogs are the perfect vessel to bring these tiny parasites into your home after a playful afternoon outside.
Tick bites on dogs may be hard to detect, with some signs of disease not appearing for a week or longer.
Lyme’s disease is a common problem in our area specifically for dogs.
Dr. Richard Dudgeon, owner of Apple Valley Veterinary Clinic in Gays Mills, says that starting from about now until November, pet owners should be extra vigilant for their animals.
“Many people may say, their dogs hardly even go outside and assume ticks wouldn’t be a problem,” said Dudgeon. “But that’s not true, ticks live in yards and grassy areas as well as the woods.”
Lyme’s is particularly problematic for area dogs notes Dudgeon.
“It’s rare we go a week with out at least one or two positives for Lyme’s,” local vet confirmed.
Although dogs are more common to have problems with ticks, cats are also susceptible and Apple Valley Veterinary Clinic does carry a plethora of products to help protect your pets against ticks. Dr. Dudgeon also recommends thoroughly checking your animal when it comes back in the home, especially after walks in more wooded areas.
However, finding a tick attached to you is no need to panic, although panic may be your first natural reaction to a bug which has bored under your skin. The CDC notes that although there are a host of tick removal contraptions on the market, a plain old set of tine tipped tweezers does an adequate job of tick removal. It is suggested that one grab the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible, pull upward with a steady, even pressure.
“Do not twist or jerk the tick; as this could cause the mouth parts to break off and remain in the skin,” informs the CDC website. If such an event comes to pass, proceed to removing the mouth parts with the tweezers the website advises. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, it is advised to leave it alone and let the skin heal. After removal thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water the website advises. Follow up with your doctor if a rash or fever follows the exposure.