Ticks have been in the news a lot lately as a means of making people aware of the potential disease threat for these little beasties. Although most cam be picked up when on the hills and glens, we see many instances in dogs who are walking in parks around Dundee. Tentsmuir is particularly bad, mainly due to the high number of deer, who are the main host of these insects.
But some background - Ticks hatch and the need to feed from a mammal. They live in thick grass and undergrowth, where it is damp. When it’s warm and damp the move along a blade of grass to near the tip and they sit there and wiggle their legs. If something furry or hairy passes within reach, they grab hold, then crawl down to the skin, where they picture the skin with their long tubular mouthparts. They produce a cement to fix them in place and then produce an anticoagulant, which keeps the blood flowing. They drink this until they are full, usually about 10 days, when they produce an enzyme that dissolves the cement and they fall off. They don’t ‘hold on’ so killing does not release them.
This first-year tick is very small and after feeding, moves down beneath the grass and lives here for a year, digesting it’s meal of blood. The next year it has grown and will do the same again, feeding once more, after which it drops off and finds a place to lay eggs and so the cycle carries on. They die after this. The second-year tick, when fed, is the one you tend to see, looking like a small fat seedless grape.
So we have a two year cycle, with the tick feeding once, each year. They are active when it is warm and damp, so we see a rise in activity in the Spring and Autumn, at least that’s what used to happen, but with our damp summers there days there is no dry period in the summer, so they tend to remain active all year, hibernating in the winter.
The reaction/swelling you see where the tick has been is due to the body’s reaction to the anticoagulant which the tick produces. This occasionally becomes infected and may need antibiotics.
Because they can carry certain bugs, which they pick up when feeding, they can transmit the same bugs to you or your dog when they feed. This is why we want to prevent this happening. Treatments which not just kill ticks, but repel them would be best and this is the basis of a liquid monthly application which we can provide to keep your pet tick-free. The medicine is not absorbed but spread and stays on the skin, being active for a month. There is no need to treat in Winter, but you must keep treating until we have a frost, usually in November. We see many cases in the Autumn, when people think there is no need to treat any longer. Same reasoning to applies to fleas too - read about fleas HERE