Tick talk: common myths about ticks
As spring and summer approach, tick season is right around the corner. These little bugs can be disconcerting to find on yourself or your pet, and for good reason. We want our pets to be happy and healthy, always. As soon as we find a tick on our pet, we should remove them promptly. Be careful to follow good practices and keep an eye out for myths and misinformation.
Familiarizing yourself with common tick myths and misconceptions can help prevent infection, scarring, and unnecessary pain. While it’s okay to remove a tick at home, it must be done properly, since a tick bite can quickly become serious.
When it comes to tick myths, there are plenty to dispel. Here’s everything you need to know about common tick misconceptions.
Why preventive tick care is important
Before we dive into common myths, it’s critical to recognize the importance of preventive tick care. Without it, your dog or cat might be left vulnerable to the effects of tick bites, like infection or disease.
Ticks can spread zoonotic diseases like Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and even the plague. Without preventive tick care, your pet is at risk of contracting these diseases. With spring and summer around the corner, be sure to consult your veterinarian about the safest and most effective tick prevention for your pet’s individual needs.
Tick care is part of the proactive solution to limit the spread of disease. Additionally, it allows both you and your pet to live high-quality lives, since you won’t have to worry as much about contracting a zoonotic disease.
Myth: ticks only come out during the summer
Now that we’ve established why preventive tick care is essential, let’s dispel our first myth. Many people falsely believe that ticks only come out during the summer. While ticks are more comfortable in the summer and tend to be more prevalent, they’re actually a threat from the early spring to the late fall.
Tick season begins as soon as temperatures start to rise and is dependent on your local climate. Ticks are most likely to bite in the spring when they’re still young and growing. Temperatures vary year to year, which is why it’s important to use preventive measures year-round, not just in the summer. Year-round prevention can help limit the spread of zoonotic diseases.
Myth: ticks don’t exist in urban areas
Another common myth is that ticks don’t exist in urban areas. While they may not flourish in urban areas like they do in rural areas, they can still be found anywhere – even right in your manicured backyard! Anywhere there’s grass or weeds, ticks will follow. While urban areas are not ideal for ticks, they will thrive if allowed the chance to.
So, yes, ticks might not be as common in urban areas, but you can bet they’re still around. Fleas, however, are very common in urban areas. Often, they’ll infest urban wildlife, like raccoons, possums, skunks, and rats. From there, they’ll make their way to dogs and cats.
Myth: the best way to remove ticks is with rubbing alcohol or a lit match
Perhaps one of the most dangerous, yet common tick myths, is that the best way to remove a tick is with rubbing alcohol or a lit match. With all the facts about ticks we’ve covered so far, this is not one of them. Using rubbing alcohol or a lit match will not cause the tick to back out and can increase the amount of saliva present under the skin. It also makes the tick much harder to remove.
To properly remove a tick, take a clean pair of tweezers and grab the tick as close to the skin as possible. Then, without twisting, pull slowly and consistently away from the skin to extract it. Avoid grabbing it with your fingers at all costs. Consider taking the tick to your veterinarian for identification. Different species of ticks carry different diseases. If you want to dispose of the tick at home, flush it down the toilet or submerge it in rubbing alcohol for 24 hours. Clean the affected area with soap and water and follow with rubbing alcohol.
Monitor the area closely for swelling, redness, or a rash. If it doesn’t begin to heal within 24 to 48 hours, or if you notice lethargy, fever, appetite loss, or lameness, contact your veterinarian right away.
Myth: my dog will only get ticks on a hike
Your dog can pick up ticks almost anywhere there’s grass or weeds during warm weather. While ticks thrive in rural areas, they’re also common in urban and suburban areas. Your dog can get ticks from virtually anywhere.
Whether your dog is lying in the backyard or enjoying a sunny day at the dog park, they can still pick up ticks. As a rule of thumb, wherever there’s grass, there can be ticks.
Myth: Lyme disease is the only tick-borne disease
Perhaps the most dangerous myth on this list is that Lyme disease is the only tick-borne disease, which is incredibly false. When it comes to tick facts, one of the most harrowing truths is that there are several tick-borne diseases that can be spread through tick bites.
Some common tick-borne diseases include Anaplasmosis, Ehrlichiosis, Babesiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Tularemia. Both dogs and humans can contract tick-borne diseases.
What does a tick look like?
A tick is flat, has eight legs, and is typically round or oval-shaped. They can range from black to red to brown. See pictures, here.
Should I be worried if I find a tick on my dog?
If you find a tick on your dog, don’t panic. Remove it safely with tweezers and flush it down the toilet. Monitor the area for swelling, redness, and rash. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you notice any lethargy, fever, appetite loss, or lameness following a tick bite.
Are ticks attracted to certain smells?
Yes, ticks are primarily attracted to the natural smell of animals. When it comes to preventing tick bites, using EPA-registered insect repellents and wearing proper gear can help protect you, your pet, and your loved ones during tick season.
Will alcohol make a tick let go?
Contrary to popular belief, alcohol will not make a tick let go. In fact, it can delay effective removal. However, after removal, a tick bite can be successfully cleansed with soap, water, and alcohol.
Why can’t you crush a tick with your fingers?
Ticks carry zoonotic diseases. Instead of crushing a tick with your fingers, which is not recommended to do (per CDC guidelines), flush it down the toilet or immerse it in alcohol.
Can I flush ticks down the toilet?
While ticks don’t easily drown, they also can’t swim. Flushing them down the toilet is an ideal way of disposing of ticks.
Preventative tick care is part of being a responsible pet owner, and so is pet insurance! Our Lifetime Protection Membership includes a 24/7 vet hotline with qualified veterinary experts to answer any burning questions you may have. While this doesn’t replace a standard vet visit, whiskerDocs can help in a pinch with concerns – especially about ticks!
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