The flowers are blooming, the peepers are peeping, and our 8 legged friend the tick is flourishing. It’s that time of year again, where we start checking our animals and ourselves for any invaders that may have chosen to hitch a ride. Why do we even care? Disease. There are many different species of ticks but there are 3 we focus on here in Maine: the deer tick (Ixodes scapularus), american dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis),and the brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus). This will be a series of blogs starting with tick identification and an introduction to diseases they carry. Every week I will post something about the specific diseases we worry about!
Ticks have 4 life stages and not all are infectious. It starts with an adult female tick laying eggs which then hatch into larva known as the larval stage. The larva then needs a blood meal, which with the deer tick is frequently a small rodent like the white footed mouse. After the blood meal it then transforms into a nymph. They typically feed on larger mammals such as deer, humans, or canines. Nymphs are a stage that can pass on disease. Once the nymph has had a blood meal it will then transform into an adult tick and the cycle continues. It is only the nymph and adult stage that can pass on disease (see chart).
Now that we know how they come to be, Identification of the tick is the next most important step. The reason this is important is that as stated above, only an adult or nymph tick can pass the disease, and not all disease is passed on at the same rate. This diagram shows the appearance and size of the tick.
The deer tick is commonly found here in Maine and is the main carrier of Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis, and Babesiosis. See image below to help with identification.
The Brown dog tick carries Canine Ehrlichiosis and Canine Babesiosis. See image below to help with identification.
The American dog tick carries canine tick paralysis (only female ticks can cause this) and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (though this disease is much less prevalent in these ticks in Maine compared to other parts of the USA). See image below to help with identification.
All these ticks quest which means they sit on vegetation and wait for a host to brush past them. Once they brush past the tick will then walk along the host until it finds a good place to feed on the host.
As with many things PREVENTION is always better than cure. We strongly recommend using an anti-tick product on a regular basis. We recommend Nexgard as an oral monthly anti-tick and flea protection product. In addition to prevention it is also very important to check your animals (and yourself) on a daily basis and remove any potential ticks!
Please feel free to call us at Dehler Animal Clinic for any further questions and keep an eye out for my next blog post about Lyme disease!