Ticks are not insects, but members of the arachnid family which includes spiders and scorpions. They are parasites that will latch onto the host by embedding their mouths into the skin and suck blood. This method of feeding makes them the perfect disease-transmitting organism. In fact, ticks are responsible for at least 10 different diseases including Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is usually carried by a deer tick which is about the size of a pin head. The longer the tick has had to feed, the larger it will appear. This type of tick is found in long grasses and near wooded areas. They can live at ground level but they will also climb grasses and sit on leaves, waiting for a potential host to walk by. They are able to detect changes in vibration, temperature and CO2. This allows them to prepare to latch onto their host and feed.
Usually, deer ticks lay their eggs in the spring and by late summer the larvae will hatch. The larvae will latch onto hosts such as birds and mice. If the birds and mice are infected with the Lyme disease spirochete, then it will be transmitted to the larvae. Ticks on their own are not born with Lyme disease.

In the fall, the larvae will transform into nymphs; which will latch onto squirrels, birds and other small mammals for 4-5 days. Usually 25% of nymphs have been found to carry the Lyme disease spirochete (spiral shaped bacterium) and because they are so small, they are most likely to spread Lyme disease. Once the nymph has fed, it will drop off its host and transform into an adult. Adult ticks are less likely to produce Lyme disease because they are the size of an apple seed and therefore easier to detect. Spirochete transmission will only occur if the tick is attached for more than 36 hours.

Something you may not know is that Lyme disease can be spread through contact with body fluids; so it’s possible for an infected dog to transmit to another dog.

So, you’ve found a tick on your pet. The easiest way to remove it is to use tweezers or a special tool you can get from your vet. You may also want to wear gloves as ticks can carry other diseases and you want to protect yourself. Grasp the tick and pull backwards, slowly and gently. In general, the tick will eventually give up and release its bite from your pet. Do not pull too hard or rotate the tick as you risk pulling off its head and this can lead to infection or increase the risk of Lyme disease transmission. Also, do not use matches, pins or gasoline to encourage the tick to drop off. These methods are ineffective.

The first line of defense after removing a tick is to boost your pet’s immune system. The three most effective herbs are Cat’s Claw, Siberian Ginseng and Echinacea.

To protect against a bacterial infection from the tick bite, you can administer, garlic, liquorice, skullcap or a B multivitamin. Also, giving your pet probiotics can ensure that there is plenty of good bacteria in the gut.

There are several preventative measures to implement as well. In your own yard, rake up leaves in the fall and keep grass short in the summer. You can apply nematodes to your lawn which will kill ticks and other grubs. When out walking make sure to stay away from long grass and woods. If you do walk in the woods regularly, ensure that you make a natural tick repellent using rose geranium and/or pennyroyal. For every 2 tablespoons of almond oil, add 20 drops of either essential oil. Mix and apply on your dog or its collar. Please note that this cannot be used for pregnant dogs or on cats.

If you follow these simple steps and do regular checks of your pets after walks or being outside; you can easily and effectively protect you and your pet this summer.

About the Author

Corry Hamilton is the owner of Taking The Lead (www.takingthelead.ca) — a pet care business that focuses on pet nutrition and well-being. Like many entrepreneurs, her journey towards creating a business of her own wasn't a straight path, but she believes that no matter what life throws at you, you can always pick yourself up and move on. You never know where it may take you and make all your dreams come true. You can check out what Corry is up to on Facebook: www.facebook.com/TakingTheLead.CorryHamilton and Twitter: https://twitter.com/TakingTheLead07