In the summer of 2018, a very ill, lethargic and dehydrated puppy was brought by a community member to Tuba City Humane Society (TCHS) volunteers with a severe tick infestation.
Ticks numbers are increasing in every environment. A major factor leading to this increase is climate warming.
Ticks bite a host only when the temperature is above 45 degrees (F). Longer and warmer temperatures enable ticks to thrive and move into new areas.
Ticks feed on many animal’s; however, dogs are the most common host.
Tick-borne diseases can be transmitted to humans. These diseases are carried by the ticks and contacted when the tick bites the host, buries its head into the skin, and gorges itself by sucking out the host’s blood.
The human and animal hosts, themselves, do not transmit tick-borne diseases. In Arizona, 5 tick-borne diseases have infected humans, with over 60 percent being Rocky.
Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF). Human RMSF infections have been recurrently diagnosed on the Navajo and Hopi Reservations.
Every spot on the puppy’s body had ticks attached with both ears full of many blood engorged ticks. So much of his blood had been sucked out by the ticks that his blood iron was very low (anemia). The puppy also had skin infections where the ticks had fed on him, as well as mange with mites and eggs found on his skin.
When ticks are present in the environment, humans and pets should be checked daily for ticks with ticks immediately removed. Decreasing the time, that a tick is on a host, limits the transmission of tick-borne diseases. Even removing an infected tick, within 24-36 hours of being bitten, can reduce chances of infection.
In humans, ticks are usually found on the scalp, behind the ears, on the back of the neck, in the waist/armpits/groin, and on the back of knees.
In dogs, ticks are often found in the ears, eyelids, under the collar, around the anal area, under the front legs, between the back legs, and between the toes.
How to remove ticks (Wearing disposable gloves can decrease contact with blood, but washing hands with soap and water after removing the gloves is still necessary):
- Use tweezers to grasp the tick as close, as possible, to the skin’s surface and to the tick’s mouthparts. Avoid direct contact with tick bite blood which can transmit tick-borne infections.
- Pull gently straight-out. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with the tweezers. If the mouth-parts cannot be easily removed, leave it alone and let the skin heal. Do not use matches, cigarettes, fingernail polish, petroleum jelly, etc. to remove or suffocate the tick. These are not effective and can spread tick-borne disease.
- Do not squeeze or crush the tick which can spread infected blood.
- After removing the tick, clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
- A dead tick can be flushed down the toilet. A tick can be killed by dunking it in rubbing alcohol or wrapping it on tape, before placing in a sealed bag and deposing in trash. Do not throw a live tick in the toilet or trash, for it can survive to bite again.
The puppy was first cared for by the TCHS volunteers, Jenny and Frank, who removed as many ticks as feasible and began rehydration.
The Tuba City veterinarian, Dr. Holgate, treated his dehydration, infections, and breathing difficulty, which stabilized his condition.
Rose, the TCHS director, was able to locate a humane society in Phoenix which accepted transfer of this puppy into their care. He received the special treatment required to heal his tick-damaged body. The puppy fully recovered and grew into an adorable dog that was adopted by a loving family into their forever home.
Protect your dog by using tick collars, spot-on skin treatments, and oral medications which kill ticks and prevent tick infestations. These products are often available, at a reduced cost, though the Navajo Nation Veterinary Program, the Navajo Nation Puppy Adoption Program, the Navajo Nation Animal Control Program, and the Hopi Public Health Compliance Program. These Program staffs are also adept in answering questions concerning ticks and tick-borne diseases.
More information about other recommended prevention measures is available at http://www.navajo-nsn.gov/PDF%20Files/2017/RockyMtnSpottedFever.pdf ).
- Prevention must begin with reducing the tick habitat by clearing or cutting grasses, brush, weeds, and other vegetation around the home and in the yard. Old furniture, mattresses, or trash can give ticks a place to hide and should be cleared. Wood piles can conceal ticks or tick infested rodents, and wood should be stacked neatly and kept in a dry place away from the home.
- Indoor ticks can be eliminated by vacuuming the home daily, washing blankets, cushions, and bed linin in hot water, as well as spraying tick repellent on curtains, mattresses, closets, blankets and cabinets. When coming in from outdoors, dry clothing can be tumbled in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks. Wet clothing requires a longer dryer time. When washing clothing or bedding, a high-hot water temperature is required to kill ticks.
- Pesticides can be sprayed or dusted to kill ticks and eggs, both outdoors and indoors.
- When walking outdoors, avoid areas where ticks live, wear light colored clothes to enable ticks to be seen, fold pants into boots or socks to keep ticks from creeping into the legs of pants, and use insect repellents to resist ticks.
- Shower within two hours after being outdoors. This can reduce the risk of tick-borne disease by washing off unattached ticks and is a good way to do a tick body check.
- Ticks prefer weak hosts. Keep your dog’s immune system strong by feeding a nutritionally balanced diet.
Many of the italized comments are from a TCHS article published in the February/March Flagstaff-Sedona Dog Magazine. (www.FlagstaffSedonalDog.com).