Ticks are parasites from the phylum Arthropoda, which simply means “jointed appendages”. There are over 850 different species of ticks, and they parasitize every single class of land animal, including amphibians! The diagram below shows the life cycle of the Tick:
Ticks need warm temperatures and high humidity to develop and breed. Young ticks tend to live in the soil or at ground level. Once they are able to they will climb up shoots, blades of grass or onto branches and wait for a host to pass by. They they do the most fascinating ‘dance’ whereby the stand up and waving their front legs. This is called Questing Behaviour and it increased their chance of grabbing onto a host and moving off with the host. Ticks can send changes in Carbon Dioxide levels, changes in light (ie shadows), changes in temperature and vibrations – these are all considered indicators of the presence of a potential host. Ticks can live for over 20 years!
Ticks come with their own pro and con’s…
Pros – Ticks tend to remain outdoors, and do not infest houses the way fleas do.
Cons – Ticks carry more dangerous diseases and are harder to find.
Ticks in South Africa
There are 2 types of ticks found in South Africa.
Hard ticks, so called as they have a hard plate on their “back”. These ticks will cut open the skin of their host using their mouthparts and attach themselves. The also secrete a substance similar to a ‘glue’ which solidifies and attaches them to the host. Hard ticks are slow feeders.
Soft ticks are distinguished by their soft, leathery “shell”. They can be recognized easily by looking for their mouthparts which are on the underside of the tick. Soft ticks swell up when engorged with blood and are thus what we call, fast feeders.
Ticks can ingest 100 times their body weight in blood!
How to remove a Tick?
If you find a tick on your pet, you can remove it by picking up the body of the tick using tweezers and pulling gently and very slowly. The mouthparts of the tick should release, leaving a small ‘crater’ in the skin of the dog. If you do not manage to get the head out, please bring your dog into Hillside Veterinary Clinic as the head can lead to an infection.
We do not recommend you use any of the “old-wives” remedies such as acetone, matches or pins as they just tend to irritate the tick. But you can keep grassy areas mowed and treat your pet regularly with preventative products such as Advantix, Advantage, Frontline, Revolution or Fiprotec.
What are the adverse effects of ticks?
Ticks can cause disease and illness directly and they can also be responsible for:
anemia due to blood loss,
dermatosis due to salivary secretions, and
ascending tick paralysis due to neurotoxins in the salivary secretions.
If you have any questions regarding ticks and your pet, please feel free to give us a call at Hillside Veterinary Clinic!