Tackling tick or bug removal is a tricky task
By Tracie Korol
Are the ticks more prolific this year? Most of my dog friends seem to be transporting habitats of every variety of tick I’ve ever seen — teeny ones, tan ones, soft ones, hard ones, big fat ones and the decorative, designer tick with the dot.
None of them are good news.
Ticks, no doubt the South Carolina state parasite, are small arachnids, or spiders, that live on the blood of mammals, birds, occasionally reptiles, certainly your dog and sometimes, you. A harpoon-like mouth arrangement with a series of barbs that angle backward anchors the tick in the place it dines. As opportunistic feeders, ticks do not arrive on the planet carrying disease agents, but can transport various diseases between species — it’s called zoonosis. Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted fever, erlichiosis and tularemia are examples of diseases ticks can transmit via saliva. Research conducted at Ohio State University indicates that transmission of disease organisms begins at approximately 24 hours, incentive enough for me to remove them before they set up shop.
While I have become infinitely more casual about ticks since moving to the Lowcountry, they still carry a pretty high creepy factor. A bug bite is one thing, but a creature that jams its entire head under the skin, and then hangs around for a meal, is the inspiration of horror movies. Ticks tend to go for the warm, secluded areas like inner ears, armpits — yours and your Best Friend’s — under the collar or between the toes. Primary tick offenders are often female, so once you find her, be sure to check around nearby for a hopeful male or two.
Except for tick removal specialists and the folks who have no nerves whatsoever, there has to be a universal “ugh!” response to finding a tick on your pet. There is also the equally “ugh!” response to the old wives methods of removal. One frightening procedure recommends holding a lighted cigarette on the engorged tick until it dies. Not a great solution if you don’t smoke or if you have unsteady hands. Dogs aren’t too crazy about this method, either, as you might imagine.
Another old-timey remedy is to “smother” the tick to death with a gob of Vaseline. As ticks breathe only a few times per hour, that method takes quite a long time, if it works at all. Plus, getting a good grip on a greasy tick for the tug-off is almost impossible. And then your dog is greasy, too. There’s also the passive procedure of letting the tick hang on until it is engorged and then falls off onto the floor. I’ve been known to mistake these for a rogue lentils. The drawback is that with this passive method the “lentil” will reappear in an armpit at a later date when it gets hungry again.
While it is tempting to simply rip the offender off as soon as discovered, the goal of removal is to dispatch the tick so it will wither up and withdraw its probe-head from the skin. There is a risk of infection if the tick’s head is left under the skin. (There is a risk of infection if anything is left under any skin, let alone something with a face.)
Since I recently discovered GreenBug, I use it for all insect-related murders.
I’ll spray whatever dog friend is hosting, wait a minute, and then comb off the offenders. Upon application of the non-toxic, nice-smelling oil, the tick will wave its legs frantically, but then die obligingly. The die-hards (no pun intended) may require individual attention. It may surprise you how tightly these guys have clamped on: they definitely mean business when they set up for a hot meal. Try not to grab the body of the tick, the now puffy part, as you want to minimize the risk of potential disease-carrying saliva back-flow into your dog. Again, “ugh!”
Grabbing the die-hard with tweezers, close to the skin, is much safer.
I recommend giving your dog a quick spray with GreenBug, especially on the underside, before going for a high-grass mosey. It is the best way to discourage buggy hitch hikers.
BowWOW! Is a production of Tracie Korol and wholeDog. She is a canine behavior coach, Reiki practitioner, a canine massage therapist (CMT), herbalist, and canine homeopath. Want more information? Have a question? Send a note to Tracie at email@example.com or visit www.wholedog.biz.