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February 15, 2011 > Ohlone Humane Society: Vampires are among us! Really!

Ohlone Humane Society: Vampires are among us! Really!

By Nancy Lyon

These little bloodsuckers are not your run of the mill boring Twlight movie vampires. They are small multi-legged parasites that lurk in tall grasses and attach themselves to any unsuspecting, warm-blooded victim passing by and then drink their fill.

The unfortunate blood donor can be a horse, cow, moose, mountain lion or other mammal, including your family animal companion... or you.

If the host is infested with a great number of ticks, they can cause anemia, and transmit a number of serious diseases including Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. A result of paralysis and death is not unknown

There are a variety of tick species and a general increase in activity in the fall and early spring during warming spells, but they can attack at any time. Longer days and rising temperatures are a signal to these little blood-thirsty critters that it's time to seek food. Ticks can sense body heat or carbon dioxide from nearby potential prey and grab on for a feast. They usually drop off when they are full, but feeding can last for several days increasing exposure to disease.

Ticks can be found in just about any wooded or brushy area, in tall grass where you may wander with your canine companion, unaware of the danger. They are common where deer live and along hiking trails, hillsides and meadows and can be found in abundance near water where warm-blooded animals come to drink

It would be safe to say these critters are not our friends and we need protection from them. So what can we do to minimize becoming targets and enjoy roving in nature with our furry buddies?

While tick control products do a good job of preventing infestations or controlling an existing problem, none are 100% effective all of the time. It's always a good idea to check your dog and yourself after a hike in the great outdoors. A thorough body check, especially around your dog's head and stomach, is in order.

If you do find an attached tick, the following information provided by Drs. Smith and Foster should be considered before you try removal on your own:

To remove an attached tick, use a pair of fine-tipped tweezers or special tick removal instruments. These special devices allow one to remove the tick without squeezing the tick body. This is important as you do not want to crush the tick and force harmful bacteria to leave the tick and enter your companion animal's bloodstream.

Grab the tick by the head or mouth parts right where they enter the skin. Do not grasp the tick by the body.

Without jerking, pull firmly and steadily directly outward. Do not twist the tick as you are pulling.

Using methods such as applying petroleum jelly, a hot match, or alcohol will NOT cause the tick to 'back out.' In fact, these irritants may cause the tick to deposit more disease-carrying saliva in the wound.

After removing the tick, place it in a jar of alcohol to kill it. Ticks are NOT killed by flushing them down the toilet.

Clean the bite wound with a disinfectant. Apply a small amount of a triple antibiotic ointment if desired.

Wash your hands thoroughly.

Do not use your fingers to remove or dispose of the tick. You do not want contact with a potentially disease-carrying parasite. Do NOT squash it with your fingers. The contents of the tick can transmit disease.

Once an embedded tick is manually removed, it is not uncommon for a welt and skin reaction to occur. A little hydrocortisone spray will help alleviate the irritation, but it may take a week or more for healing to take place. In some cases, the tick bite may permanently scar leaving a hairless area. This skin irritation is due to a reaction to tick saliva. Do not be worried about the tick head staying in; it rarely happens.

More safety tips:
* Never use tick products designed for dogs on your cat, or vice versa.
Avoid using any tick killing product on very young, senior, pregnant, or sick animals unless directed to do so by a veterinarian.
* Always read the ingredients, instructions, and warnings on the package thoroughly.
*If you live in a wooded or brushy area, or share frequent trips with your dog along trails and parklands, you may want to discuss with your veterinarian whether Lyme disease vaccine is appropriate for your animal companion.

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