The powers that be predicted it and it’s here. Tick season. Not all ticks carry disease. However, 2017 is proposed to be the most dangerous thus far here in the northeastern United States. Tick-borne diseases are a real threat to the horses, dogs, and humans in the area. Most Lyme disease bacteria is transferred from nymphs, which are especially prevalent in the spring. But ticks are around all year long. So what can we do to prevent Lyme disease?
I have family members and friends with complications from Lyme disease. My house backs up to the woods with a multitude of woodland creatures, including chipmunks, rabbits, and a very active deer trail. Often they will go through my yard to get to the woods, so ticks are a very real concern. My dogs and daughters play outside, and often go for walks in the woods. Daily tick checks are an occurrence in my house.
Ticks will crawl onto a horse while it’s grazing and hide in the forelock, mane, and under the chin among other places.
Working with horses, ticks are especially difficult in spring. They crawl up the horses heads and legs as they graze on the grass and embed themselves under the chin, in the manes, and between their legs. I bought a tick remover so I wouldn’t have to use my hands to remove them and it works very well. Often I will spend a good 15 minutes removing ticks before I will actually start the massage.
Lyme disease is not the only tick-borne disease detrimental to humans and animals. The Centers for Disease Control details an alarmingly long list on their site. But only the deer tick transmits Lyme disease.**
A deer tick will attach and prepare to feed for up to 24 hours. The good news is that often the Lyme bacteria from ticks takes at least 36 hours to transfer once they are feeding. This is why daily tick checks are so important. Even if bitten, if you remove the tick quickly your chances are low for disease.
- Wear close-toed shoes, socks, and long pants.
- Wear light colors.
- Natural prevention: use an effective tick repellent like the all natural Insect Repellent from from Heather Wallace, Animal Massage Therapy every time you go outside. Organic, all natural and made to order it deters insects from attaching to you, your dog, and your horse.
- Use a lint roller on your hair, clothing, and on your pets before going inside your vehicle or home. A visual check is also highly effective.
- For dogs, I like to give them a nightly massage. This allows me to detect any bumps, spasms, and yes, ticks, that I may have missed with the lint roller. Important spots to check are around the anus and groin area.
- When grooming horses or petting your dog remove ticks which like to feed under the chin, around the head, neck, and between the hind legs. Horses are especially susceptible to tick-borne diseases due to grazing in paddocks for extended periods.
What To Do If You or your Animal Are Bitten By A Tick
How To Remove A Tick Safely
According to UptoDate:
“The proper way to remove a tick is to use a set of fine tweezers and grip the tick as close to the skin as is possible. Do not use a smoldering match or cigarette, nail polish, petroleum jelly (eg, Vaseline), liquid soap, or kerosene because they may irritate the tick and cause it to behave like a syringe, injecting bodily fluids into the wound.
The proper technique for tick removal includes the following:
●Use fine tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin surface as possible.
●Pull backwards gently but firmly, using an even, steady pressure. Do not jerk or twist.
●Do not squeeze, crush, or puncture the body of the tick, since its bodily fluids may contain infection-causing organisms.
●After removing the tick, wash the skin and hands thoroughly with soap and water.
●If any mouth parts of the tick remain in the skin, these should be left alone; they will be expelled on their own. Attempts to remove these parts may result in significant skin trauma.”
Take a photo of the tick. You may also store it in alcohol and have it tested. But please keep in mind that if the has bitten you but is not yet engorged, the chances for Lyme is very small.
Symptoms of Lyme Disease
If you have been bitten by a tick and did not remove it quickly you will not be able to get tested for Lyme disease right away. It can take up to 8 weeks for the bacteria to show up on a test. The CDC has a very thorough list of early and later symptoms that may occur.
Symptoms in Dogs
- Loss of appetite
- Reduced energy
- Lameness (can be shifting, intermittent, and recurring)
- Generalized stiffness, discomfort, or pain
- Swelling of joints
Symptoms in Humans
- Erythema migrans (EM) rash
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Severe headaches
- Joint Pain
- Facial Palsy
If you see any of these symptoms and have had contact with ticks, visit your doctor immediately.
Early treatment with antibiotics are usually all that is necessary. According to the Centers for Disease Control:
The Safest Course
Prevention is the key to avoiding Lyme disease and it’s complications. Due to the nature of my work with animals, I am more at risk than others and take special care to prevent tick bites. I was bitten once last year. I felt the bite immediately while walking out to the paddocks to get a horse and removed the tick within seconds. My skin became inflamed and swollen around the bite site and although I did not require antibiotics, my doctor is pretty positive that I am allergic. It was swollen, itchy, and sensitive for weeks! I never want to deal with that again.
What is your preferred method of tick bite prevention for you or your animals?
**Note: the deer tick may also carry the Powassan virus. While rare, there have been cases in Pennsylvania and New Jersey this year already. There is 10-15% chance of fatality and no known cure. ABC News, May 5, 2017.