“Mom, what is this?” My thirteen year old daughter points to a pinkish brown mark on the inside our little dog’s ear.
I instantly prepare to do deliver the classic motherly dismissal to calm her concerns with a phrase like “Oh, it’s probably nothing; a cut, a scab”, but before I can say the words, movement catches my eye and I zoom in closer.
It has moving legs!
I jerk back. My daughter’s eyes bulge and she demonstrates yet another reason why I love her so much, because instead of tossing the dog to the floor, she pulls him in protectively to her chest.
My daughter detests bugs on her person. Recently, while splitting and piling fire wood back at the bush, my son found an inch long, juicy white worm (it was disgusting mind you) and proceeded to fake placing the worm into my daughter’s hair. She ran about flicking her hair, screaming and flapping her arms. Yes, my son is a prankster jerk, but he was only faking. She was pissed. It was gross.
Our little dog is an adorable, big eyed, lap king. Jasper’s majestic breed, the Cavalier King Charles, descends from the dogs royalty acquired to sit on their laps. Granted, he is athletic, playful and charming, but his greatest skill is to find your lap, curl up and force you to stay put to pet him. His most favourite thing in the world is our Kubota side by side. He loves to stand in the back and bark at the world. When we get to the bush, he chases squirrels and our golden retriever through the bush, running ahead of the Kubota until he finally tires and then stands on the driver’s lap with his head stuck out the window.
He sniffs tree bases and snorts out critter paths, all the while dragging his curly, long haired ears through the leaves, forest litter and long grass.
He’s the perfect tick magnet.
I fake calm to my daughter and say, “That appears to be a tick,” but inside, my heart is racing and I’m stamping down the full body ‘that’s so gross’ shivers.
My bug fearful daughter is the queen of calm, as she helps to hold our little dog still. We trim the long hairs around the tick away with scissors and with a pair of tweezers (note to self – bring home a tick twister from work on Monday), I grasp the tick, as close to Jasper’s skin as possible, holding the tick firmly enough so he knows I mean business, but not enough to squish him and then I begin to slowly turn the ticks body, counter clockwise. It’s a trick to keep the tweezers engaged in full revolution and it takes a couple tries, but once I get over three hundred and sixty degrees (over a full revolution) I pull up firmly and the tick detaches.
I examine the critter to be sure he’s still alive and that he has a head. All his parts appear intact. You don’t want to leave tick parts, like his head, in your pet. Then I zoom in with my smart phone and take photos so I can identify him later. Now I let the heebie jeebie shivers take over my whole body.
There’s an app called eTick you can send your tick photos to for identification.
I may be a veterinarian, but that creature was sucking blood from my precious baby and Jasper spends most of his day curled up with one of us on the couch, touring our home, or sleeping tucked up against my husband, my daughter, or my side by night.
The experts have been telling us for years, that ticks are beginning to bloom in our region and they were right.
There are a few facts we should keep in mind;
- Many ticks are pretty harmless (but no less gross).
- Some ticks carry and transmit disease to our pets and to us.
- If you find a tick on your dog, once again your dog, man’s best friend, is protecting you. Like a canary in a mine shaft, they have now told you that you need to be more careful where you live, travel and play with your dog.
- Dogs are much more likely to pick up a tick. While you stay on the trail, they tromp through the bush, the long grass and anywhere but the beaten down trail. Also, dogs have the perfect long soft fur coats, like tick life lines, best for sweeping those searching ticks off the litter and grass.
- If your dog has had a tick – you may want to wear long pants in the bush and grassy areas of your property and check yourself and your family thoroughly for ticks. (Brad Paisley is so wise – “I’d like to check you for ticks.”)
The tick that carries Lyme disease, the Blacklegged or Ixodes tick, landed in our area off the back of birds and carried by deer. If you find a tick on your pet, you can have a simple blood test performed by your veterinarian to screen for tick borne diseases. We usually recommend this about 6 weeks after a tick attachment.
There are also effective/safe preventative products you can give your dog. The tick season in Ontario is longer than the flea season. Ticks are hardy. They like our cool, damp spring and fall. We can find ticks as early as six degrees Celsius in the spring. Therefore, if we get an early spring thaw, or winter comes late, ticks may be a risk to us and our pets year round, but the biggest risk is most likely from March to November.
Reach out to your veterinarian to discuss safe, easy to give preventatives for your region.
I don’t want to be alarmist.
It’s just alarmingly gross.
For more information, check out these references.