Ticks are eight legged parasites related to spiders and scorpions. Ticks feed on the blood of their host, injecting a numbing agent into the bite wound so their presence can go unnoticed for days while they are feeding. During their feeding, ticks can transmit diseases such as Lyme disease and Ehrlichia to their host through the saliva.
The tick’s life cycle is different than insects. The female engorges on blood from her host, mates with a male tick and then detaches, dropping off her host to fall to the ground and seek a place to lay her eggs. The female can deposit 1,000 to 18,000 eggs, depending on the species of the tick, and then dies shortly after laying her eggs. The eggs will hatch anywhere between 2 months to 2 years depending on the species and climate conditions. The eggs hatch as larvae and seek a host to get a blood meal. Larvae ticks are very small and are often overlooked while they are on the host. Once they have engorged on their blood meal, they will drop off the host where they will molt and become a nymph. Again the nymph seeks out a blood meal, feed and then drop to the ground where they once more will molt and become an adult tick.
Species of Ticks
Diseases transmitted by ticks
- Anemia – The female tick can ingest more than 100 times her weight in blood. In severe infestations with thousands of ticks on a dog, it can cause severe blood loss resulting in anemia and may actually require blood transfusions to replenish the lost blood.
- Skin irritation and itching – The attached tick secrets chemical through her mouth parts in order to anchor herself to the skin and anti-coagulants to make it easier to suck the blood. These chemicals can cause irritation and allergic reactions resulting in more itching, swelling redness around the bite area.
- Tick Paralysis – Some species of ticks can produce a neurotoxin that can produce a sudden, progressive, flaccid (limp) paralysis of the muscles similar to that seen in Guillain-Barre syndrome. Once the offending tick is discovered and removed, the patient can quickly recover. Ticks discovered to produce the neurotoxin are D. andersoni, D. variabilis, A. americanum, A. maculatum, I. scapularis, and I. pacificus.
- Ehrlichia chaffeensis (human monocytic ehrlichiosis)
- Ehrlichia ewingii
- Borrelia lonestari
- Francella tularensis (tularemia)
- Hepatozoon americanum (American canine hepatozoonosis)
- Rickettsia rickettsii (Rocky Mountain spotted fever)
- Cytauxzoon felis (cytauxzoonosis)
- Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme disease)
- Anaplasma phagocytophlium (human granulocytic ehrlichiosis)
- Ehrlichia canis (canine monocytic ehrlichiosis)
- Babesia canis (canine babesiosis)
- Anaplasma platys
- Babesia gibsoni
Tick control Products
- Amitraz – is available as a dip, (mitaban), a collar (Preventic) and a spot-on (Promeris) Amitraz helps prevent tick attachment and can make the tick detach within 24 hours. The collar can last for several months, but do not allow your dog to chew on it because it can cause toxicity.
- Fipronil – available in spray and spot on formulations (Merial Frontline).
- The only product approved for tick control on cats is fipronil (frontline).
- Permethrin – acts as a repellent and kills ticks within 24 hours. Products containing permethrin include Vectra 3D and K9 Advantix.
- Selamectin – the active ingredient in Revolution is only effective against Dermacentor ticks and has a slower kill rate and may not be the best choice in heavy tick infestations.
- Deltamethrin – Scalibor- An impregnated dog band (collar) that kills fleas and ticks for 6 months
Most ticks infest dogs with an ambush technique called questing. When the ticks hatch, they climb up on to the tips of weeds, grasses and other vegetation. The ticks have a special sensory apparatus known as Haller’s organ that is located on their forelegs. With their forelegs extended, they can sense animals approaching. When the host brushes up against the vegetation, the ticks release in mass and crawl onto their new host to feed. Hundreds of ticks can release onto your pet at one time. The ticks also have seasonal cycles depending on the climate and geographic region.
In cases where there are just a few ticks, can be done with tweezers. Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and then with slow, gentle pressure, remove the tick from the skin. You should not crush the tick with your bare fingers because disease transmission to humans can be possible. Sometime, the tick can cause a mild infection at the site, especially if removed improperly and the head remained attached to the skin. In the event there are hundreds of ticks attached, you may want to take your dog to the veterinarian where special dips can be applied to facilitate removal.
If you live in an area that tick infestation is prevalent, then year round tick control is advised. If you are going camping with your dog then there are products that you can use prior to camping that will repel, kill or prevent infestation or quick release, depending on the product you use.
As always, if your dog is having a tick problem, avoid over the counter medications, they are not as effective and can cause toxicity, especially if a product containing permethrin is accidentally applied to a cat. Your veterinarian will help you choose a product that will help with your flea, tick, and intestinal parasite control as well as heartworm prevention. It may be accomplished with one product or the combination of a few products. Care must be taken when mixing products because potential toxicity may occur.
Treating the yard
The prescription tick control products when applied according to the label directions should control your tick population. In some cases, additional yard treatment may be necessary to control ticks.
- Clean up your yard to eliminate refuge areas for ticks and their wildlife hosts. This can be done by cutting back or burning tall grass, brush piles and weeds growing along fences, between runs and other structures. Sunlight penetration helps to dry out ticks and clearing the brush will reduce places for wildlife tick hosts to hide.
- If you have a brown dog tick infestation in kennels, you can spray acaricides into cracks and crevices, under and behind cages and along the ceiling boards because ticks like to climb up.
- Products that are effective against ticks in a kennel include cyfluthrin, premethrin, and s-fenvalarate.
- These same products also work outside. Broadcast application of acaracide products is rarely necessary for tick control in yards. Rather spot treatment along fences, kennels and shady areas is preferred.
- In the event of unusually heavy tick populations, you may find it necessary to restrict your pet’s access to the tick infested environments.
Effective yard flea and tick products
- Bayer Advanced Lawn™ Complete Insect Killer – Active ingredients include Imidacloprid 0.72% and Beta-cyfluthrin 0.36%
- Bayer Advanced Garden™ PowerForce® Multi-Insect Killer Ready-To-Spay Cyfluthrin 0.75%
Both products come in 32 oz ready to use bottles that can cover approximately 5,000 square feet
- Do not allow the spray to get into fish ponds, streams or lakes.
- Remove your pet’s food dishes before you spray
- Keep your pets and children away from the treated area until the spray has dried completely.
- Shake well before using to evenly distribute the product.
- In heavy infestations, you may need to repeat the spraying every 7 to 14 days.
- These products are ready to spray. Simply attach the bottle to your hose and be sure to follow the label directions precisely. The water from your hose will automatically mix with the concentrate to provide the correct mixture to your yard.
- Also available is Bayer Advanced™ PowerForce® Multi-Insect Killer Ready to spread Granules.
Other products that are available
- Conquer: Esfenvalerate 3.48%
- Tempo Ultra WP Cyfluthrin 10.00%
Resources on Ticks:
Additional information on tick control can be found at http://www.vet.k-state.edu/depts/dmp/personnel/faculty/dryden.htm
Learn more about ticks from the CDC The Tick Handbook (click link to download pdf report)