Opportunistic, cannibalistic, deterministic, and definitely not fantastic. Ticks are strictly parasitic, nasty little parasites that feed on the blood of unfortunate victims. Like mites and spiders, ticks are arachnids, with the potential to transmit many diseases through their bites, so it is important to thoroughly check your dog for ticks after any warm-weather outdoor activity.

Ticks are always looking for a warm body. In search of a meal, they may lurk on a blade of grass or bush, and their complex sensory organs can sense a potential host’s presence from long distances. When a promising host passes by, they grab hold and hitch a ride, Once aboard, they crawl along, looking for a patch of skin where they can latch on with their front legs, cut open the skin with mouth parts, and insert a barbed feeding tube. The ticks suck blood, and after a couple days of attachment, may release infected saliva into the host’s blood.

Ticks don’t fly, jump or blow around with the wind. They are slow and lumbering, small and very patient in their capacity to locate a host. They are generally not born with disease agents but rather obtain them during various feedings, and then pass diseases such as Lyme Disease on to other animals. Disease agents acquired from one host can be passed on to another host at a later feeding,

Preventing tick bites is important to keeping your pets healthy. Keep your dogs out of wooded areas and away from wildlife, and check their entire body for ticks daily. Brush your fingers through their fur with enough pressure to feel any small bumps. Check carefully between the toes, behind ears, under arm pits , as well as around the tail and the head. if you do feel a bump, pull the fur apart to see what’s there. A tick that has embedded itself on your dog will vary in size, anywhere from the size of a pinhead to a grape, depending on how long it was attached. They are usually black or dark brown in color, but will turn a grayish-white after feeding to an engorged stage. It generally takes five or six hours for a tick to become attached, and up to l0 days to become fully engorged with blood. You have at least 24 hours to find and remove a feeding tick before it transmits an infection, so quick removal drastically reduces the risks.

To discourage ticks, mow regularly, remove weeds and leaves, and make sure your garbage and compost containers are rodent proof. Prevention may also involve removing exotic vegetation or other welcoming habitat, as studies have determined that invasive bush honeysuckle and Japanese barberry, for example, attract deer and mice, and thus, their ticks. Managing the growth of these plants significantly reduce the abundance of infected ticks.

Victor Rotich describes ticks in this way: “ Nasty little ticks….a fat, black flashy tick, ever smiling at me, and a brown, round-eyed tick, perched within my ear. They pierce my skin with their sharp poisoned arrows …they have even invited their friends to wage war against me. Who will hear my painful cry? Who will come to my rescue before these critters suck me dry.”

If you do find a tick on your dog (or yourself), it is important to remove it carefully and completely. Tweezers will work, but we recommend a special inexpensive tick remover , TICKED OFF, a single-motion tick remover designed to remove crawling or attached ticks in a simple, easy to use, effective manner. Ticked Off is available on www.tickedoff.com or from Amazon. com . It is important to grasp the tick as close to where it is embedded in the skin as possible. Do not grasp it by its body, and do not jerk, twist or wiggle it. Pull slowly and steadily, directly out with steady pressure to make the tick release its hold and allow you to remove it intact. Be sure to remove the entire tick, and once you have removed it, put in alcohol because ticks can survive being flushed down the toilet or being tossed in the garbage. Disinfect the bite wound with soap or a disinfectant, and wash your own hands thoroughly.

Because a vast number of tick-prevention products are available, some of them containing dangerous pesticides, please do not buy over-the-counter products….check with your veterinarian to come up with a tick prevention program tailored for your individual dog. . Although there is no one perfect solution to tick problems, consistently checking for ticks on your pets, plus twice yearly screening for tick-related infections, are the best ways to keep your pet safe from tick-borne illness.