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How To Get Rid Of Ticks Instantly 4 All

 Reviewed 24 April 2019 share-a-picture Or go to discussion?join-the-discussion dogphoto
 
tick-questing-for-blood

If you've got a dog or children (which sometimes appears the same), you've likely wondered more than once:

How to get rid of ticks??

Dogs and ticks, the forced-upon duality, isn't it?

Certainly if you haven't got a couch dog but an outdoor dog. Like the German Shepherd, yes.

So here, the ULTIMATE guidance how to get rid of ticks!

And how to prevent ticks in the first place!

Don't forget: you can now share your experience with fellow dog owners right here.

I left out the Latin names of the ticks, as no one needs them here. To make it as simple for you as the last Periodical on fleas, just click where you are based to see the locally prevalent ticks and tick diseases. You will then be led through to all important points thereafter:

Ticks throughout the world

Ticks in North America

American ticks

About 90 tick species are known to be endemic in continental U.S., but just about 10% of these (~9) bite dogs and people, and are known vectors to dangerous pathogens that can affect animal and human health. Obviously, here we will only look at those 9. However, as you will see in a moment, just these few tick species alone are more than you'd like to host.

Like everywhere else, most american ticks (about 80) are hard ticks (Ixodidae), only about 10 american ticks are soft ticks (Argasidae). What this means for you is explained further below under Ticks for everyone.

Where are they?

One american tick, the Brown Dog Tick, enjoys to be hosted by farmers and families all across the United States, including Hawaii, except in Alaska. - There are no common infectious ticks in Alaska, however the endemic tick that goes by the name Ixodes angustus has experimentally proven that it has vector competency to transmit lyme disease (later under tick diseases).

The geographical distribution of the 'hot spots' of the Brown Dog Tick, Rocky Mountain Wood Tick and Gulf Coast Tick I was able to combine in the single map shown below (tick-individual maps came from CDC):

Ticks USA 1

Note that ticks know no political systems, state borders, north-south or east-west differences (or religions). Ticks feel welcomed by any host anywhere who lives inmidst suitable flora and fauna, and who provides them with a blood meal of their choice.

The American Dog Tick enjoys the flora and fauna and diet all across the eastern half of the United States plus California. The Lone Star Tick is keeping up pretty well, and is already endemic all over the mid and south east of the U.S.:

Ticks USA 2

Note that the American Dog Tick and the Lone Star Tick are active host-seekers - these ticks will 'go the extra mile' to pay a tick-friendly host a surprise visit. Particularly the American Dog Tick, when it senses a regular source of carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide (like from a human dwelling), this tick species may literally crawl towards the house and even crawl up the outside walls towards the window screens and doors (as reported in one case of professional tick spotters).

The Lone Star Tick is particularly aggressive. Even its larvae will bite humans, whereas none of the other tick larvae is known to do that.

The Blacklegged Tick (or Deer Tick) all over east and mid-south U.S., and the Western Blacklegged Tick along the Pacific coast have fallen behind (or woke up late), neither of these have yet conquered central U.S. (see map below). This doesn't mean they can't be found there anywhere (a few adventurous representatives have been seen more or less everywhere), it just means their 'middle class' isn't (yet) expanding there. For more, see later Why ticks migrate.

Ticks USA 3

Also note that, without a host, the blacklegged tick or deer tick is a passive host-seeker - these ticks rarely move horizontally more than a few meters. This doesn't mean though that these ticks aren't migrating: Over years and decades they are incrementally drawn towards a host-source, like say the shady edge of a pasture or a regularly used deer trail or parkland path.

However, the Western Blacklegged Tick or Pacific Coast Tick spreads more and more along the ... well, Pacific coast! (the name-giving researchers make it too easy for us wink ) And the Latino relatives of all ticks that go by the name of Cayenne Tick (mnemonic: Porsche Cayenne; now I made it easy for you wink ) are totally ignoring the human-made Mexican border and are spreading into mid-south U.S.

So what exactly makes ticks spread out geographically? See later Ticks for everyone.

Before we get to tick diseases, let's briefly look whether Canadian ticks offer any specifics. Note that Canadian ticks are relevant to Americans too (and vice versa!) because...? Yes, ticks know no borders! - Not even borders that dogs know, if and when we make use of the respective dog training tool. More detail in the Dog Training Toolkit.

Canadian ticks

Ticks common in Canada:

  • Blacklegged Tick or Deer Tick
  • Western Blacklegged Tick or Pacific Coast Tick
  • Ixodes Angustus (no common name)
  • Lone Star Tick
  • American Dog Tick
  • Brown Dog Tick
  • and Rocky Mountain Wood Tick

Oh, all the same? Yes, you noticed that Canada hosts the same tick species as the U.S., except for the Gulf Coast Tick and the Cayenne Tick (yet).

For the Western Blacklegged Tick or Pacific Coast Tick and the American Dog Tick I could find geo indications of where these ticks are most prevalent:

Ticks Canada

Tick Diseases specific to North America

For a brief description of the subsequent tick diseases see Ticks for everyone, because disease descriptions are of global relevance.

Which tick diseases are endemic in North America?

Geographical distribution of the most prevalent tick-borne infectious diseases of humans with animal contact, primarily dogs (from Gideon database):

Anaplasmosis

Anaplasmosis: tick vector-borne bacterial infection. Incubation period 7-21 days.

Babesiosis

Babesiosis: tick vector-borne infection. Incubation period 7-63 days.

Bacillary Angiomatosis

Bacillary angiomatosis: cat flea (but also tick) vector-borne bacterial infection. Incubation period 16-22 days.

Bartonollosis

Bartonellosis: tick and cat vector-borne bacterial infection. Incubation period 3-14 days.

Bunyaviridae

Bunyaviridae infections: tick, midge, and mosquito vector-borne viral infection. Incubation period 10-15 days.

Colorado Tick fever

Colorado Tick fever: tick vector-borne viral infection. Incubation period 4-5 days.

Ehrlichiosis

Ehrlichiosis: tick vector-borne bacterial infection. Incubation period 7-21 days.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease: tick vector-borne bacterial infection. Incubation period 7-14 days.

Relapsing fever

Relapsing fever: tick and louse vector-borne bacterial infection. Incubation period 7-8 days.

Powassan

Powassan: tick vector-borne viral infection (and from consumption of infected dairy products). Incubation period 4-30 days.

Q-fever

Q fever: tick vector-borne bacterial infection (and from consumption of infected dairy products). Incubation period 18-21 days.

Spotted fever group Rickettsioses.jpg

Spotted fever group (Flinders Island spotted fever, Israeli spotted fever, Japanese spotted fever,...): tick vector-borne bacterial infection. Incubation period 6-8 days.

Tularemia

Tularemia: tick and fly vector-borne bacterial infection. Incubation period 3-5 days.

West Nile fever

West Nile fever: mosquito and tick vector-borne viral infection. Incubation period 3-6 days.

Drilling down in North America, here are the 'hot spots' of the three key tick-borne diseases:

  • Lyme disease: Wisconsin, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maine, and Minnesota
  • Anaplasmosis: Minnesota, Wisconsin, New York, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania
  • Ehrlichiosis: Arizona, Texas, Missouri, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and Oklahoma

In Canada, the reported cases for these tick diseases are MUCH lower. Due to its larger population, obviously Ontario tops the list of all reported cases of tick diseases in Canada:

  • Lyme disease: 3056
  • Anaplasmosis: 531
  • Ehrlichiosis: 444

Yet, all of these figures are dwarfed by U.S. states like the ones mentioned before, eg for Minnesota:

  • Lyme disease: 21163
  • Anaplasmosis: 19960
  • Ehrlichiosis: 1003

Eg Vermont:

  • Lyme disease: 8490
  • Anaplasmosis: 1370
  • Ehrlichiosis: 265

We can even drill down further in North America - thanks to an IDEXX app! Find out your neighborhood tick details here: IDEXX Canine Vector-Borne Disease Prevalence app. Let everyone know in the comment box at the end how helpful that was for your neighborhood.

Now you can jump to Ticks for everyone.

Ticks in South America

In contrast with North America, Europe and Asia, ticks of the genus Ixodes (hard tick) do not appear to be major players in transmitting diseases to humans or dogs in South America. Indeed, there is only one record of an Ixodes collected while feeding on man for all South America!

South American tick diseases

Bacillary Angiomatosis

Bacillary angiomatosis: cat flea (but also tick) vector-borne bacterial infection. Incubation period 16-22 days.

Bartonollosis

Bartonellosis: tick and cat vector-borne bacterial infection. Incubation period 3-14 days.

Bunyaviridae

Bunyaviridae infections: tick, midge, and mosquito vector-borne viral infection. Incubation period 10-15 days.

Ehrlichiosis

Ehrlichiosis: tick vector-borne bacterial infection. Incubation period 7-21 days.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease: tick vector-borne bacterial infection. Incubation period 7-14 days.

Relapsing fever

Relapsing fever: tick and louse vector-borne bacterial infection. Incubation period 7-8 days.

Spotted fever group Rickettsioses.jpg

Spotted fever group (Flinders Island spotted fever, Israeli spotted fever, Japanese spotted fever,...): tick vector-borne bacterial infection. Incubation period 6-8 days.

West Nile fever

West Nile fever: mosquito and tick vector-borne viral infection. Incubation period 3-6 days.

Now you can jump to Ticks for everyone.

Ticks in Australia and New Zealand

Close to 100 Australian ticks species are known, and the most popular tick here is the Australian paralysis tick. Meaning it can cause paralysis from the neurotoxins the tick transfers with saliva into the host's body.

However, note that all ticks can cause paralysis in the bitten host! Namely when the tick bites close to the spine of the unwilling host. But the Australian paralysis tick is particularly full of neurotoxins, which allow it to paralyze the victim by biting pretty much anywhere on the body (human or dog). The tick doesn't do that intentionally (as to lame the host) but it's a side effect.

Tick Diseases in Australia and New Zealand

Anaplasmosis

Anaplasmosis: tick vector-borne bacterial infection. Incubation period 7-21 days.

Bacillary Angiomatosis

Bacillary angiomatosis: cat flea (but also tick) vector-borne bacterial infection. Incubation period 16-22 days.

Bartonollosis

Bartonellosis: tick and cat vector-borne bacterial infection. Incubation period 3-14 days.

Flinders Island spotted fever

Flinders Island spotted fever: tick vector-borne bacterial infection. Incubation period 6-8 days.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease: tick vector-borne bacterial infection. Incubation period 7-14 days.

Queensland tick typhus

Queensland tick typhus: tick vector-borne bacterial infection. Incubation period 6-7 days.

Now you can jump to Ticks for everyone.

Ticks in Europe

European Tick Diseases

One of the major tick diseases in Europe is tick-borne encephalitis (TBE). According to WHO, tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) has three known subtypes: the European (Western), the Far Eastern (spring-and-summer encephalitis) and the Siberian.

The virus is transmitted by the bite of infected ticks, and occasionally by ingestion of unpasteurized milk. No known person-to-person transmission. Infection can first lead to an influenza-like illness. About 30% of these cases develop further to high fever and signs of central nervous involvement. Encephalitis developing during this second phase may then result in paralysis, permanent sequelae or death.

Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) tends to occur focally even within endemic areas! Currently, the highest incidences of clinical cases are being reported in the Baltic States, Slovenia and the Russian Federation. Other higher-incident countries are Albania, Austria, Belarus, Bosnia, Bulgaria, China, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Mongolia, Norway, Poland, the Republic of Korea, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and Ukraine.

  • Highest risk is during April to November, and when hiking or camping in forested areas up to an altitude of about 1500 meters
  • Wear long trousers and closed footwear!
  • The whole body should be inspected daily and attached ticks removed immediately
  • Avoid consumption of unpasteurized dairy products

 

Anaplasmosis

Anaplasmosis: tick vector-borne bacterial infection. Incubation period 7-21 days.

Babesiosis

Babesiosis: tick vector-borne infection. Incubation period 7-63 days.

Bacillary Angiomatosis

Bacillary angiomatosis: cat flea (but also tick) vector-borne bacterial infection. Incubation period 16-22 days.

Bartonollosis

Bartonellosis: tick and cat vector-borne bacterial infection. Incubation period 3-14 days.

Bunyaviridae

Bunyaviridae infections: tick, midge, and mosquito vector-borne viral infection. Incubation period 10-15 days.

Ehrlichiosis

Ehrlichiosis: tick vector-borne bacterial infection. Incubation period 7-21 days.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease: tick vector-borne bacterial infection. Incubation period 7-14 days.

Relapsing fever

Relapsing fever: tick and louse vector-borne bacterial infection. Incubation period 7-8 days.

Rickettsia sibirica mongolotimonae

Rickettsia sibirica mongolotimonae infection: tick vector-borne bacterial infection. Incubation period 3-6 days.

Spotted fever group Rickettsioses.jpg

Spotted fever group (Flinders Island spotted fever, Israeli spotted fever, Japanese spotted fever,...): tick vector-borne bacterial infection. Incubation period 6-8 days.

Tick borne encephalitis

Tick-borne encephalitis: tick vector-borne viral infection. Incubation period 7-14 days. Vaccine available!

Tularemia

Tularemia: tick and fly vector-borne bacterial infection. Incubation period 3-5 days.

West Nile fever

West Nile fever: mosquito and tick vector-borne viral infection. Incubation period 3-6 days.

One other tick-borne disease is pretty much unique to the UK: Looping-ill. Although there have now been a few cases in Spanish goats, Looping-ill originates from Scotland where it has affected sheep for centuries. The first human infection was recorded in 1934, and since then many (in the UK):

Louping-ill

Louping ill: tick vector-borne viral infection. Incubation period 4-7 days.

Louping-ill is unique for another reason - it is a complex disease: influenza-like illness plus encephalitis plus poliomyelitis-like illness plus hemorrhagic fever!

For Tick endemicity in the UK see this page.

Now you can jump to Ticks for everyone.

Ticks in Asia

Asian tick diseases

Astrakhan fever

Astrakhan fever: tick vector-borne bacterial infection. Incubation period 3-18 days.

Anaplasmosis

Anaplasmosis: tick vector-borne bacterial infection. Incubation period 7-21 days.

Babesiosis

Babesiosis: tick vector-borne infection. Incubation period 7-63 days.

Bacillary Angiomatosis

Bacillary angiomatosis: cat flea (but also tick) vector-borne bacterial infection. Incubation period 16-22 days.

Bartonollosis

Bartonellosis: tick and cat vector-borne bacterial infection. Incubation period 3-14 days.

Bunyaviridae

Bunyaviridae infections: tick, midge, and mosquito vector-borne viral infection. Incubation period 10-15 days.

Crimean Congo haemorrhagic fever

Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever: tick vector-borne viral infection. Incubation period 1-6 days. Vaccine available!

Ehrlichiosis

Ehrlichiosis: tick vector-borne bacterial infection. Incubation period 7-21 days.

Japanese spotted fever

Japanese spotted fever: tick vector-borne bacterial infection. Incubation period 6-8 days.

Kyasanur Forest disease

Kyasanur Forest disease: tick vectore-borne viral infection. Incubation period 3-12 days.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease: tick vector-borne bacterial infection. Incubation period 7-14 days.

North Asian Tick typhus

North Asian tick typhus: tick vector-borne bacterial infection. Incubation period 6-7 days.

Omsk haemorrhagic fever

Omsk haemorrhagic fever: tick vector-borne viral infection. Incubation period 3-9 days.

Relapsing fever

Relapsing fever: tick and louse vector-borne bacterial infection. Incubation period 7-8 days.

Powassan

Powassan: tick vector-borne viral infection (and from consumption of infected dairy products). Incubation period 4-30 days.

Rickettsia sibirica mongolotimonae

Rickettsia sibirica mongolotimonae infection: tick vector-borne bacterial infection. Incubation period 3-6 days.

Spotted fever group Rickettsioses.jpg

Spotted fever group (Flinders Island spotted fever, Israeli spotted fever, Japanese spotted fever,...): tick vector-borne bacterial infection. Incubation period 6-8 days.

Tick borne encephalitis

Tick-borne encephalitis: tick vector-borne viral infection. Incubation period 7-14 days. Vaccine available!

Tularemia

Tularemia: tick and fly vector-borne bacterial infection. Incubation period 3-5 days.

Thogoto

Thogoto: tick vector-borne viral infection. Incubation period 4-5 days.

West Nile fever

West Nile fever: mosquito and tick vector-borne viral infection. Incubation period 3-6 days.

Now you can jump to Ticks for everyone.

Ticks in Africa

African tick diseases

African Tick Bite fever

African Tick Bite Fever: tick vector-borne bacterial infection. Incubation period 3-18 days.

Babesiosis

Babesiosis: tick vector-borne infection. Incubation period 7-63 days.

Bacillary Angiomatosis

Bacillary angiomatosis: cat flea (but also tick) vector-borne bacterial infection. Incubation period 16-22 days.

Bartonollosis

Bartonellosis: tick and cat vector-borne bacterial infection. Incubation period 3-14 days.

Bunyaviridae

Bunyaviridae infections: tick, midge, and mosquito vector-borne viral infection. Incubation period 10-15 days.

Crimean Congo haemorrhagic fever

Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever: tick vector-borne viral infection. Incubation period 1-6 days. Vaccine available!

Ehrlichiosis

Ehrlichiosis: tick vector-borne bacterial infection. Incubation period 7-21 days.

Israeli spotted fever

Israeli spotted fever: tick vector-borne bacterial infection. Incubation period 6-8 days.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease: tick vector-borne bacterial infection. Incubation period 7-14 days.

Relapsing fever

Relapsing fever: tick and louse vector-borne bacterial infection. Incubation period 7-8 days.

Rickettsia sibirica mongolotimonae

Rickettsia sibirica mongolotimonae infection: tick vector-borne bacterial infection. Incubation period 3-6 days.

Thogoto

Thogoto: tick vector-borne viral infection. Incubation period 4-5 days.

West Nile fever

West Nile fever: mosquito and tick vector-borne viral infection. Incubation period 3-6 days.

Ticks for everyone

Ticks are arachnids - like spiders! Hence I have decided to not like ticks at all. In fact, during the preparation of this Periodical (again!) my body has been giving me countless signals of a tick biting me somewhere, so much was itching. In the end, I have to admit, it turns out that the felt 'tick bites' were 'only' in my nerves. But I will be very grateful when this "vermin" series is over!!!

About 900 tick species globally are currently known. Only about 10% of these (~90) are known vectors to dangerous pathogens that can affect animal and human health. The regional chapters above gave more details on these.

There exist hard ticks (Ixodidae) and soft ticks (Argasidae). About 90% of all ticks are hard ticks (they have a hard shell). Only about 90 tick species globally are soft ticks: they have a soft leather-like cuticle and lack a scutum ('armor').

hard ticks and soft ticks

The first 90 ticks (the known vectors to dangerous pathogens) do not match the latter 90 ticks (the soft ticks). Quite the contrary: When you find a tick on your dog (or on yourself), it almost certainly is a female hard tick. Because female hard ticks attach to a host, feed for several days, and engorge to a size that is easily felt or seen on a person or pet.

Conversely, soft ticks consider their host a fast-food restaurant - they feed within just 30 to 60 min(!), and while the host is at rest (ie they feed in the den, burrow, or nest of the host).

tick anatomy explainedTo feed, both tick types cut open the skin of the host with their chelicerae ('knives'), and then immerse their barbed hypostome to suck blood (like fleas, ticks are vampires too).

Note that typically one cannot feel the 'tick bite', and neither can the dog. "Sharp knives cut clean" - that's why, with a sharp kitchen knife, we only feel the cut later. When a tick has cut you open, anything you feel later would only be the effect of neurotoxins or bacteria or viruses transmitted with the tick saliva.

Almost all tick diseases result from the bite of a hard tick. Only for tickborne relapsing fever (TBRF) I know that it is the 'present' left behind for the host by a soft tick.

Unlike fleas, ticks can be very dangerous to their host, but they are not as good as a warrior: Most ticks seem to die within a day if the relative humidity falls somewhere below 80% - unless they are well-fed/engorged (in which case a tick can live a few days, because then the blood substitutes for the needed moisture).

Thus unlike fleas, ticks are unlikely to survive as coinhabitant in your house (all the less if you are one of those who use the service of a dessicant dehumidifier). Even nymphs that had a blood meal will not survive in a human dwelling the 30+ days it takes them to mature and bite again or lay eggs. Something less to worry about!

The need for high relative humidity is another reason why ticks don't climb high up on vegetation: The more humid leaf litter is on the ground.

Watch this - it's sort of a tick action movie - or tick love story? Whatever. It shows a tick questing for a host - courting a host wink

Tick questing at top of grass blade - questing: waving front legs, aiming to grasp a passing host: "Take me with you!"

Note that ticks quest for their next host no higher up than the height of their preferred host. Adult ticks' preferred host is of the size of small mammals up to a maximum height of deer size. Thus ticks normally reside in vegetation no higher up than our calves, and have not been found higher up than at about our waist. My childhood memory was that ticks fall down from trees. They don't. Do not worry about bushes above you, avoid those close to the ground.

Unless we lie down or reach down with our arm, ticks latch onto our legs, but they can latch straight on the back or head of our dog when the dog passes a bush. Again, an image says more than a thousand words:

no ticks on trees

So, how comes people find ticks on their head? Because, once ticks latch onto a host they like (they 'smell' that!), they tend to crawl up (probably motivated by the inherited 'instinct' to avoid being stripped off at the low end). But ticks cannot jump (they are not fleas), and they can't fly either (they have no wings).

Indeed, the questing video above makes clear that ticks seek physical contact before they latch, ie before they let go of their 'observation deck'! Ticks do not bridge a distance (air), not even by gravity, in order to settle down for a surprise meal at their new host. Again, something less to worry about!

Hence simply remember my above mnemonic:

Do not worry about bushes above you,
avoid those close to the ground

And why is this chapter called "Ticks for everyone"?

Because most tick species, and obviously including all the ticks that are responsible for tick diseases, have a preference for small mammals or dogs or deer but they don't say "no" to a human blood meal either! While ticks don't feed as often/as much as fleas - in times of need, ticks are unaspiring guests too (like fleas).

But if we, and the dog, typically cannot feel the 'tick bite' (see above), then how can we notice a tick on our dog, or on ourselves?

Before the tick is fed up with blood (sorry for the pun), the tick is so small that it is next to impossible to feel the tick on the dog's skin (regardless of the coat type of your German Shepherd).

Seeing the tick at the beginning of its meal is equally difficult - but it helps to know what to look out for. So...

Tick pictures

tick on grass bladeIn nature, ticks typically quest for a host either on the ground (adult ticks, nymphs, and larvae), or at the end of a leaf or grass blade (adult ticks only).

From there, most ticks attach to small mammals. Some prefer to ride with mid-sized mammals like dog and deer:

ticks everywhere

poppy tickEven adult ticks are tiny (until fed up). When you have a poppy seed roll for breakfast (delicious!), some seeds always fall off. In case you have telescopic vision like Super Goof (or easier, a microscope), the remainder of the roll will look like the image to the right.

For demonstration purposes someone placed a single tick among the poppy seeds, can you spot it? Probably you can, I put a red circle around the tick. That small is a tick, yes. Looks big here with Super Goof eyes, but next time you have a poppy seed roll for breakfast you will remember this Periodical and realize how tiny they are. wink

tick portraitGetting ever closer - now show me your face!

This is a close-up of a tick from the front (but I can't figure out if she smiles!?).

 

How to identify a tick

Let's say you've found a tick on your dog, and you want to know what love is. Read: what species it is. What can you do?

You can visit Tickencounter.org of the University of Rhode Island, they've built a fantastic pictured tick identification app - though I don't think it's available as iphone app yet, may be a good idea?

If you are in the USA, you may want to click your region and hold the tick you've found on suitable forceps next to your screen - or you may not want wink. They really should make an app that takes a photo and compares them automatically, hm? Who of you is Apple fan and can suggest that?

If you are not in the USA, you can use the linked site nonetheless, you'll just have to click through multiple tick pages until you find the tick that matches the one you've found on your dog.

Does it matter?

Do you need to identify the tick species you found? No, not necessarily. But if your dog or you was 'bitten', then by all means yes, do keep the tick so that it can be identified the moment you get ill. Knowing which species of tick bit you or your dog is helpful because different ticks carry different diseases. Thus it increases your chance to get the right treatment.

Example: "In one study, 13 of 20 patients reporting tick bites to physicians were given antibiotics on the assumption(!) that they were at risk for Lyme disease, yet 53 of the 54 ticks removed from those same patients were lone star ticks, which do not spread Lyme disease" (from nationalgeographic.com) - thus, again, wrong treatment by doctors: Giving a (antibiotics) first, before considering that you may need b (biotic treatment)!

Why Ticks migrate

Ticks actually migrate, yes, they don't travel just for 'holidays' (see Tick life cycle). Slowly but steadily ticks migrate towards other suitable tick habitats (see How to prevent ticks). Climate change (an overall rising temperature) and changes in wildlife populations and forest habitats make ticks move.

BUT: This doesn't mean all of them move. Take an example: While you're reading this Periodical, the Cayenne Tick is further migrating from South and Middle America to North America - but it's not that now or anytime soon South and Middle America are Cayenne Tick-free because all moved north. Many of them stay in the south. But many others are migrating north (more than you'd want to host).

So how do ticks manage to bridge such great distances? The quick way: They attach to migrating birds. The slow way over decades: They attach to small mammals that slowly but steadily migrate too.

Tick life cycle

tick life cycleTicks have four life stages:

Egg - Larva - Nymph - Adult

The female adult tick is always much larger than the male adult tick.

But note that, unlike with fleas, with ticks larva, nymph, and adult look the same to the naked eye:

tick life stages

Only when you use a lighted magnifying glass you can see that larvae have three pairs of legs while nymphs and adult ticks have four pairs of legs.

Note that the colors in the tick image above have no meaning: Tick colors vary massively depending on tick type and region and if fed or unfed! - But none of them will win a beauty contest.

BAD for our dog and for us: Unlike fleas, during their life cycle ticks sit down for breakfast, lunch, or dinner at THREE hosts!

tick host development

Even the larvae may attach to your dog (although this is rare), and nymphs and adult ticks may attach to your dog (very common). Most dogs and humans are infected through bites of nymphs. Only the eggs are innocent.

Since nymphs are tiny (less than 2 mm), it is difficult to see them - both on dogs and on people:

  • On people they are primarily hiding in the groin and armpits, and on the scalp. But not on mine because I am fairly bald, and ticks seem to be so smart that they 'sense' what gives them cover and what doesn't!
  • On dogs most ticks are found around the head (between the eyes, at the end of the nose, inside the ears) and at the neck (check under the collar!), however they may end up anywhere on the dog's body - particularly if the dog hosts many ticks. Note that in studies longer-haired dogs were more susceptible to ticks than short-haired dogs.

Nymphs feed primarily during the spring and summer months (now look and feel for tiny bumps on the skin; the lighted magnifying glass would certainly help) - while adult ticks (the hard ticks at least), are most active during the cooler months of the year (now look for 'larger' bumps on the skin).

Tick Diseases globally relevant

Key tick diseases (diseases transmitted by ticks as vector for the respective bacterium or virus):

  • Lyme Disease: Bacterial infection, typically starts with flu-like symptoms and reddish "bulls-eye" rash, but can lead to encephalitis, arthritis, body pain, loss of motor skill and memory loss, sleep disorders, and chronic fatigue if left untreated.
  • Spotted Fever: Bacterial infection, typically starts with non-itching rash of countless tiny red spots on hands and feet, but later more widespread, plus fever, headache, joint pain, muscle ache, nausea, and possibly abdominal pain and diarrhea; can lead to coma and death if untreated.
  • Tularemia: Bacterial infection, typically starts with fever, headache, chills, nausea, and dry cough; leading over to swollen lymph nodes and pneumonia; fatal if untreated.
  • Babesiosis: caused by a protozoan parasite, no typical symptoms except sometimes flu-like; but can lead to malaria-like disease with fever, chills, sweating, headache, muscle ache, joint pain, nausea, vomiting, and prostration, and ultimately to anemia, jaundice, and blood in urine; however, is typically self-limiting.
  • Ehrlichiosis: Bacterial infection with flu-like symptoms (fever, headache, joint pain, and muscle ache).
  • Anaplasmosis: Bacterial infection similar but not identical to Ehrlichiosis; flu-like symptoms (fever, headache, joint pain, and muscle ache), can lead to death if untreated.
  • STARI: Bacterial infection with flu-like symptoms and reddish "bulls-eye" rash, similar but not identical to Lyme disease.
  • Tick Paralysis: caused by neurotoxins in tick saliva; starts with 'heavy legs' and muscle weakness, loss of coordination and sensation in the legs, continues through the entire body (trunk and back mucles failing), and then leads to death within just 24-48 hours due to paralysis of chest muscles and respiratory failure.

As you saw in the maps for your region above, three further non-key tick diseases are globally endemic: Bacillary angiomatosis, Bartonellosis, and Q-fever.

One newer tick disease leads to meat allergy! It's transmitted by a tick that is most endemic in south-east U.S.

Note that all the above tick diseases can affect both humans and canines (in their respective form)

If your dog or you have been 'bitten' by a tick, this does not mean your dog or you will fall ill: Even in the tick hot spots shown in the regional chapters above, the majority of ticks do not carry diseases, thus most tick bites do not cause serious health problems.

HOWEVER: You cannot know at the time of the 'tick bite' to which group your tick belongs ("the harmless folks" or "the infectious folks"?). Hence it is crucial to remove every tick as soon as you find it! Early identification and the right treatment make most tick bites manageable without complications.

How to get rid of ticks

As a kid I learned to pull out a tick, not to twist it, aka "ticks have no screw thread", and people laughed about those who advised to "twist a tick clockwise" or "twist a tick counterclockwise". And that other people wouldn't remember which way to twist...

tick anatomy explainedThat was those days when you couldn't simply look up the micro-anatomy of a tick on the internet, and when you couldn't just buy a high-res digicam at a bargain.

Today you can do either or both - and I did, and added some explanations for you in the image already shown at the beginning of Ticks for everyone.

Crucial to understand: Both was, and still is, wrong for how to get rid of ticks.

Now we need the tick's hypostome in high resolution to understand why, so here it is:

tick hypostomeThe hypostome is barbed, it locks to each skin layer of the host - much stronger than a ship's anchor attaches to the seabed. As if that wasn't enough, in addition the tick 'cements' itself with a latex-like adhesive to the host!

We can clearly see the backwards-pointing barbs, and that they are arranged vertically straight, ie without leaning to either side (and we also see that there is no screw thread either).

This demonstrates that if you pull out a tick:

  • it will be very tough to get it out without breaking the tick apart
  • and if you get it out complete, you inflict serious harm to the wound
  • the increased wound contact surface will absorb more neurotoxins and pathogens from the tick
  • you hurt your dog (or child or partner)
  • and your dog may not want that you do that again!

wrong tick removalSadly, even the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) still recommends to do just that, to pull out a tick! Now you know why this is medieval, bad advice.

You can still find a LOT of tick tips that are plain wrong, particularly on websites including the 'wannabe-encyclopedia' wikipedia and even Purdue Uni!

Just the mentioning of "smearing oil over them" or "applying vaseline" or other substances, or "burning them with a match", or "using tweezers" still misleads millions of dog owners who do just that! sad

To distinguish the rights from the wrongs often requires extended studies, and that's exactly what you get from MYGERMANSHEPHERD.ORG. So, tell all your friends:

  1. Do NOT pull out a tick (see above why)
  2. Do NOT use tweezers, like Coghlan's Tick Tweezers (which are the same as the De-Ticker, just cheaper) or even worse ones. The slightest bit of pressure (whether or not the tick is dead!), and either the tick will lodge even deeper into the skin (like say the Pacific Coast Tick does), or you'll make the tick regurgitate infected blood into the host, or you'll make the tick salivate more neurotoxins into the host, or you'll even literally squeeze the ticks infectious innards into the host! dumb?
  3. Do NOT poke, tease, burn or freeze a tick. Yes, I even advise against freezing the tick to death and then using tweezers to remove it, like suggested with the popular Arctick product: While the freezing works quick, it doesn't dislodge the barbed hypostome (thus it will often leave the head inside the host), and it doesn't remove the tick's adhesive 'cement', and the frozen tick body is likely to break up, and the tweezers press ever more pathogens inside the host!

Here's how to get rid of ticks right - such that:

  • you inflict no additional harm to the wound
  • you remove the entire tick in one piece
  • regardless which tick species, and if adult or nymph!
  • you don't let the tick regurgitate more pathogens into the host's body
  • you don't excessively agitate the tick such that it distributes more neurotoxic saliva into the host's body
  • you don't squeeze the tick such that its innards end up in the host's body
  • and you don't hurt your dog such that (s)he won't let you remove a tick again
  1. Choose one of the following state-of-the art tools to remove the tick (I've added some additional advice to each tool)
  2. Watch the videos and study the images how to remove a tick correctly
  3. Settle down comfortably and keep calm to have a steady hand
  4. Execute the tick removal exactly as shown and described
  5. Always assume there is more than one tick, thus perform a systematic tick search

The right procedure really makes all the difference! Every subsequent tool is effective - when it is used right.

Step 1: Choose a tool

  • Pro Tick Remedy Tick Removal System (great, comes with magnifying glass(!) and tick identification card(!) - slight drawback: does not help much with pushing out the tick as it exerts pressure only on one axis, in the middle)
  • Tick Key (good, slight drawback: does not hold well the removed tick, and exerts pressure only on one axis)
  • O'Tom Tick Twister (great, helps with pushing out the tick as it allows to exert pressure on two axes while enclosing the tick)
  • Contech Tick Twister (equally great, for same reasons)
  • Tick Stick (equally great, for same reasons)
  • Ticked Off Tick Remover (top, used by most vets, holds the removed tick, only slight drawback: does not help much with pushing out the tick as it exerts pressure only on one axis, in the middle)
  • Tick Lasso (good, however does not help at all with pushing out the tick/exerting pressure, and cannot 'lasso' tiny ticks/nymphs deeply buried in the skin as lasso too 'thick' and no biaxial pressure point)

The Pro Tick is embarassingly cheap, particularly considering its efficacy, and if you get that one you get a magnifying glass and a tick identification card with it, thus you won't necessarily need the lighted magnifying glass already shown further above.

If for the ticks in your geography you aren't happy with your chosen tool, try another. While all of the above are great for tick removal (if you do it right), obviously some will perform better for your endemic ticks than others.

We ARE in tick paradise here - paradise for the ticks, hell for me!

So I DO have tried all of these.

Benefiting from that experience I can now say, the Ticked Off Tick Remover is my favorite: it's the best tool to get rid of ticks fastest and safest. - Don't forget the rotational movement.

Almost on par is the Pro Tick Remedy Tick Removal System. I say "almost" because I once lost a tick: my hand wasn't steady and the tick fell off the Pro Tick - which is a risk if you don't immediately see it.

So why do I rate these higher than the O'Tom Tick Twister and the Contech Tick Twister and the Tick Stick which all exert pressure on two axes to help push the tick out?

Because all of them turned out to be too thick to grab nymphs, the tiny baby ticks that LOVE to feed on dogs just as much as their parents! evil

If at some point I have the chance we will have a SHOP here and I will design and sell the world's best tick remover based on the most extensive tick experience of any dog owner I've met. rolleyes

Step 2: Watch the videos and study the images to learn the right procedure

NOTE: She doesn't actually say it but she does it right: Press down the skin with the twister/stick tool while you move it towards and then around the tick! The resulting pressure under the skin helps to push out the tick, and thus prevents that more pathogens and neurotoxins get inside.

how to get rid of ticks: also tested: ticked offThese images should also help to understand the procedure - else let me know here.

This image corrects the vendor's advice(!) how to remove a tick with the Ticked Off tool. Note that the twisters make twisting much easier than the Ticked Off.

The next images show the procedure and result of using the Tick Lasso right:

how to get rid of ticks: also tested: tick lassotick lasso result

Watch this video as well.

Step 3: Settle down comfortably and keep calm to have a steady hand

Yes!

Step 4: Execute the tick removal exactly as shown and described

Why press down around the tick? See above.

Why twist the tick tool?

a) Look at the hypostome close-up above.

b) A tick's head is not a rotating viewing platform, it is fixed towards one side (like our own head and our dog's). When you gently and slowly twist the twister or 'stick'/twister tool, the tick will pull in its barbs to be able to be twisted around without breaking its neck, or the tick will leave the barbs out but it is twisted around nonetheless, ie it's losing its grip from the barbs and the cement.

c) Together with the increasing pressure towards the open wound, the twisting motion will 'motivate' many ticks (but not all) to come out voluntarily - before you break their neck, that's why you should twist slowly (in either direction)! In any case, even if your tick wants to hold on (like the Pacific Coast Tick or the Lone Star Tick), no tick can hold on because it's losing its grip the way we do it.

After you got out the tick in one piece:

  1. Gently press with your fingers towards the wound
  2. With the other hand, spray some saline wound wash to disinfect while holding gentle pressure
  3. Keep holding for 5 - 10 seconds, then release
  4. You can now use some Vetericyn wound and infection spray or the Trophy wound spray to kickstart the healing process
  5. Re-apply either spray every hour, three more times
  6. Make sure that your dog doesn't lick the wound for the next 12 - 24 hours

Clear? Good.

Step 5: Always assume there is more than one tick, thus perform a systematic tick search

Yes!

How to take care of your dog after tick removal

Even if you've found all ticks on your dog and removed them, you're not yet out of the woods: Not just the Australian Paralysis Tick but all ticks can inadvertently poison their host with neurotoxins transferred with saliva. Indeed, if the tick was attached to your dog for several hours already, it is highly likely that the tick may have done just that. - It doesn't need the "24 to 48 hours" that you can read elsewhere - why would it need that?

Even after the tick is removed (hopefully the way explained above), any neurotoxins left under the skin will be slowly absorbed into the dog's body. So here's what to do:

  1. Keep a close eye on your dog for the next two to four days
  2. Avoid exercise (normal dog walking is not to be considered exercise for a German Shepherd, unless you have a senior GSD!)
  3. Keep your dog calm, avoid excitement
  4. Give plenty to drink (like always!) - and if you notice problems with swallowing, see below what to do
  5. Give standard natural homemade food - now no bones or other foods that could get stuck/ make the dog agitated

Tick poisoning?

If you notice that your dog proceeds through the following symptoms, take your dog to the vet straight away:

  • Change in voice (softer bark, changed pitch)
  • Weakness in hind legs, sudden sitting down
  • Vomiting repetitively (with or without froth in the vomit)
  • Unusual salivation
  • Unusual panting, loud/heavy breathing, or grunting noises
  • Inability to stand
  • Cold or blue-ish gums

Clear? Good. Note: If later you need a reminder of the right tick removal tools, you can find them quickly through our Remedies page linked at the top, middle, and bottom of every Periodical. Nice, eh?

How to prevent ticks

hungry tick pt-lt-gr This is what we want to prevent.

Thus:

  1. We need to remove tick habitats where possible
  2. We avoid likely tick habitats where we can't remove them (certain public places)
  3. We wear proper clothes where we can't avoid likely tick habitats (desirable public places)
  4. We check our body and our dog's body where we didn't want to wear clothes
  5. We consider if we want to give our dog some tick protection

Note that there is a clear correlation between tick prevalence and pathogen endemicity and tick disease frequency. Thus it pays to eliminate tick habitats.

tick habitat

Other tick habitats are where yards border wooded areas, ornamental plantings and gardens, and anywhere it is shaded and there are leaves that allow for a micro-climate with high humidity. Pay special attention to frequented border areas, wood piles, stonewalls, and sheds.

When you trim shrubs and low branches, rake and remove leaves, you eliminate tick habitats.

a love story
And thanks to Tim Carter for this smart poster wink

Since ticks latch onto our dog or us low to the ground (see video and explanation further above), obviously lying down half-naked on unmaintained grass-like fields does bear some tick risk - and in tick hot spots significant tick risk. But it won't lead to death (I just realize, the book cover in my poster creation above is a top safari book).

If you walk through tick habitats like the ones mentioned above, it is sensible to wear boots and long trousers (with the trousers drawn in such that ticks cannot crawl up your leg inside your trousers - uhhhah!).

dogs with bootsBut what can we do for our dog's safety? Do dog boots help?

GSD in waistcoatCertainly dog boots will help prevent that ticks attach to your dog's paws or hock, but obviously they can't prevent that your dog attracts some higher-up ticks when roaming through the bushes, or picks up some lowly ticks while sniffing the ground or lolling on the ground.

dog high vis vestA dog waistcoat or fashion coat or high vis vest isn't always the right outfit either.

GSD pups clotheslineAnd you don't really want to hang your puppy higher up to be off the ground. Poor pups!

In that case you may want to consider to give your dog some tick repellent, yes. To repel ticks is always better than to remove ticks, and to remove ticks is always better than having to cure some tick disease.

Resources

http://www.cdc.gov/ticks/geographic_distribution.html

http://www.cdc.gov/ticks/diseases/

http://www.tickencounter.org

http://extension.entm.purdue.edu/publichealth/insects/tick.html

Want to know your local tick risk?
For CA+US see this DogsandTicks.com app!

 


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