What you need to know about Ticks

Written by: Isobella Ash

What’s a tick?

Ticks are small creatures that survive by feeding on the blood of host animals, such as mice, deer, cattle, birds, and humans. They can pass on harmful bacteria such as Lyme Disease by even a small bite. Ticks are usually found in grass, underbrush, and in densely wooded areas, where they wait for their next host to stroll by, so they can hitch a ride. They cannot jump but will stealthily climb their host where they can.

Are all ticks infected with bad bacteria?

No not all ticks are infected, however it is better to be safe than sorry. Only a handful of tick species transmit diseases to humans and dogs. According to Lyme Disease Action, in the UK it can be up to 15% of ticks who carry harmful diseases and infection rates in Europe are higher than the rest of the world.  The diseases these ticks carry can then be passed on to their animal host, which could be anything from birds to dogs and, can even feed off humans.

Remember that if you discover you have Lyme Disease in the early stages there are antibodies to fight it.

Is it true that ticks die in the winter?

NO! It is true that Ticks like to be in hot and humid environments however this does not mean that ticks die during the winter. Although they are far less active in the colder months, there is always a risk of infection. Depending upon the species, they survive the winter months by going dormant under a pile of leaves, burrowing underground, or by riding out the winter on a warm host animal. It is important to note that when temperatures rise above 35° F or thereabouts, some ticks will emerge from dormancy to search for a new host.

How can I prevent this from happening to me or my dog when we go out?

If you want to venture out in an area where ticks are prevalent, follow the preventative methods below:

  • Wear light-coloured clothing; this will make it easier to spot ticks, especially tiny ticks in the nymph phase.
  • Tuck the cuffs of your trousers into your socks.
  • Outfit yourself with specialised clothing treated with permethrin.
  • Use a flea and tick collar on your dog and/or a topical tick treatment.
  • Use EPA-registered insect repellent on yourself.

Whilst you are out and about you should:

  • Stay at the centre of well-worn trails and avoid leaf piles and underbrush; these are common hangouts for ticks in winter.
  • Keep your dog on a leash during winter hikes so she they can’t run off trail.
  • Avoid sitting on the ground, especially in rocky areas or near piles of leaves.

When You Get Back:

  • Give your dog a tick check before you go inside the house. Be particularly diligent if you went off trail. If your dog wears a dog coat, check that, too.
  • Check your coat, hat, and scarf for ticks.
  • As an extra precaution, put your outerwear and clothes in the dryer on hot for ten minutes.
  • Take a shower soon after you get home and scan yourself thoroughly for ticks.
  • If you spot a tick on you or your dog and it hasn’t yet embedded, you can simply lift it off and flush it down the toilet. If you discover an embedded parasite, carefully remove the tick and consider storing it in a glass container until you can get it tested for tick-borne illnesses.

Another effective strategy for tick bite prevention in all seasons is creating a tick-unfriendly zone around your home. This is particularly important when you have an enclosed backyard where your dog spends time playing and exercising year-round. Here are steps to take:

  • Keep the woodpile as far from your house as possible, and out of your dog’s usual play area.
  • Keep your grass mowed short.
  • Don’t let leaves or sticks collect near the house.
  • Put up fencing that prevents deer from grazing on your property.
  • Close small holes around your property—they make appealing dens for rodents, which are tick magnets.
  • No matter where or when you explore the outdoors with your dog it’s always important to look-out for ticks. If you make tick prevention part of your daily routine year-round, you’ll significantly reduce the risk of a tick biting you or your dog.

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