The mild weather is beginning, and as we all rejoice at the ending of winter, it is time to consider what this mild weather brings with it. The springtime thaw encourages the little menaces known as ticks, to make their way back out into the world. Ticks are a major carrier of Lyme disease and are a risk for humans and animals alike. There are a few important things to remember when it comes to ticks, and what you need to do about them.
Ticks are carriers of several diseases that can affect our equine partners, however, the most commonly discussed is Lyme disease. Horses can be vaccinated for Lyme disease, so it is important to discuss this option with your veterinarian when it comes time to do your spring shots. Ticks are blind and detect animals by ammonia. They wait on long blades of grass and climb onto their host as they walk. Some ticks will attach to the horse immediately, while others will search for the area where the skin is thinner. It is most likely that you will find ticks on a horse’s chest, underbelly, mane, tail, or inside the flank. Once a tick is attached, it appears as a small, firm nodule on the skin.
It is essential to check your horse for ticks frequently. You can purchase a tool called a tick key at most hardware stores, as well as equine outlets. This tool is very beneficial in helping remove ticks once you have located them. You want to be sure that the tick is killed once it is removed, to avoid it attaching to anyone else. You want to remove the tick immediately when you find them and be sure not to twist the tick as that can cause the head to become detached and harder to remove. There are certain repellents that can be effective against ticks to help minimize the number that may attach to your horse. You can also clear brush from pastures as that is commonplace for ticks to live. Animals like guinea fowl actually eat ticks, as well as free-range chickens.
Taking your dog out for a walk is a great outdoor activity in the warmer seasons, but it is crucial to remember that ticks can bite and infect your dog, just as they can with horses and humans. Ticks can be encountered anywhere, although it is most common in wooded areas and tall grass. Anytime you take your dog outside, it is important to check for ticks when they come back inside. Not only can ticks transmit diseases to your dog, but they can also transfer from one host to another. This means that your dog can carry ticks into your home that can bite you.
It is good practice to check your dog for ticks every time they return from being outdoors. You can check for ticks by feeling along with your dog, any parting the fur to check any firm nodule you encounter. You can use tweezers or a tick key to remove a tick from your dog. Check with your veterinarian about any tick repellent products that can be used on your dog to help keep tick risk lower. If you do remove a tick from your dog that is engorged, you should mark down the date that you removed the tick and monitor your dog in case any symptoms of tickborne diseases arise. This will allow you to have a timeline should you need to take your dog to the vet. Save the tick in a sealed container or plastic bag so you can have the veterinarian identify if your dog exhibits any unusual symptoms.
Ticks pose a big threat to humans as they are the main carrier of Lyme disease. They can attach to humans who are outside in wooded areas, or long grass, as well as transfer from one host to another (such as from your dog to you). It is important to ALWAYS check yourself for ticks after you have been outside, and check your children for ticks if they have been playing in the grass etc. Some ticks are immature and incredibly small, so it is crucial to take your time to ensure you find and remove any ticks that may have attached.
If you find a tick that has freshly bitten and hung onto you, you should remove it immediately and wash the bite with warm water and soap. If you have a tick that has burrowed and you cannot remove it, you should seek medical assistance from your doctor. If you begin to develop symptoms of a tick-related illness in 3-30days following a bite, track your symptoms and schedule an appointment with your doctor. Symptoms of tick-related illnesses include; fever, body aches and joint pain, and a rash. A “bulls-eye rash” is the most common rash associated with tick bites, it is usually round and continues to get bigger following the bite.
At times, your public health unit may ask to have the tick tested to monitor where ticks live. In this case, you can place the tick in a secure, sealed container or plastic bag. Tick testing is not used to diagnose Lyme disease in humans.
The key to tick prevention and management is to be diligent in checking yourself, and your animals for ticks. You can help minimize the number of ticks on your property by clearing brush piles, ridding your property of other animals who may carry ticks (such as deer), and maintaining your grass and wooded areas. There are products that can be used to help repel ticks on humans, and animals if needed. Another effective method of preventing tick bites on yourself and your family is to cover up using long pants/shirts that are tucked in, and close-toed shoes. It is also recommended to wear light coloured clothing, as it would be easier to spot a tick on your clothing. Be sure to change your clothes when you return from being outdoors to avoid any loose ticks entering your home and kill any ticks that might be on your clothing by putting your clothes in the dryer on high heat for 10 minutes.
Tick season doesn’t need to cause you to minimize your outdoor activities. By being diligent with yourself, your family, and your animals when checking for ticks, you can minimize the negative effects of tick season and continue to enjoy your time outside!