Downeast Dog News

Ticks: Nature’s Terrorists?

By Jenn Rich | Jun 01, 2017

Is it an exaggeration to call these eight-legged pests terrorists? Well thanks to all of their “publicity” and my doing research for our pet publications these past months, I can say that I have actually had two or three dreams about them recently. I am also having to conduct regular checks on myself and the dog, so to me, yes, they are terrorists lurking in my yard and on my favorite hiking trails with their little legs stretched high just waiting for their next meal to brush on by.

I am someone who would like to believe that every species has its purpose. However, I am quite disappointed that I did not find much evidence to redeem the existence of ticks. Basically, they carry and spread diseases and thin out the herd so to speak. Many animals feed on them as well, but they do not rely solely on them to survive.

By now, we should all know that deer ticks carry Lyme disease among many others. One that is gaining more news coverage lately is the Powassan virus (POW). Unlike Lyme disease which can take 24-48 hours to transmit, Powassan can be transmitted in under an hour. Powassan tends to be transmitted more in early spring and fall, and Lyme disease is more common in the summer months. Powassan is a serious disease that can cause long term neurological problems.

Researchers from the Maine Medical Research Institute began researching Powassan after the death of 73 year old Marilyn Ruth Snow in 2013, who was bitten by a tick carrying the disease. She was from the Midcoast area. She became sick quickly and died a month later. Her case was rare.

According to the US CDC, only 77 cases of Powassan were reported nationwide between 2006 to 2015. Of those cases, 8 of the infected people died.

According to the CDC, signs and symptoms of infection can include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, seizures, and memory loss. Long-term neurologic problems may occur. There is no specific treatment, but people with severe POW illnesses often need to be hospitalized to receive respiratory support, intravenous fluids, or medications to reduce swelling in the brain.

So what does this mean? Do we all retreat inside and miss out on the many outdoor activities that we once enjoyed? While the option is certainly up to you, I say NO WAY! We just need be aware of the most common places ticks can be found and how to take precautions to reduce chances of being bitten.

Ticks typically hang out on long grasses, bushes, and brush. You can reduce your risk of being infected by ticks by wearing insect repelling clothing treated with Permethrin. Light colored clothing will also help you spot the ticks easier. Ticks work their way from the bottom up. They do not fly or jump. Wearing long pants tucked into your socks, long sleeves and a hat can prove to be helpful. There are also non-chemical, homeopathic remedies to explore such as the use of many different essential oils, Rose Geranium being one of the most effective.

Ticks like to attach behind ears, in hair, body folds, groin, and underarms. When you get home, be sure and remove your clothing and tumble dry them on dry heat for at least 10 minutes (if damp additional time is needed), hop into the shower and do a full body check.

Speak with your veterinarian about preventative treatments available for your dog. Options vary from topical treatments and chewables to natural sprays and homeopathic remedies.

If you find an attached tick, remove it immediately with fine tipped tweezers or a tick spoon/key. Be careful not to puncture the tick and do not twist it as you may leave in the mouth parts leaving infectious fluids behind. It is not recommended to remove unattached ticks with bare hands as you could be infected through mucus membranes or cracks in your skin. Your risk of infection will depend on what type of tick bit you and how long it was attached. If you do become ill or develop a rash after a tick bite, seek medical assistance.