6 myths about ticks
Lyme disease, ticks are only found in rural areas, should you burn ticks? All the truth!
Initially confined to a small area, namely the Eastern Townships, ticks have now propagated across Quebec. This growing population brings its share of urban myths. Because those nasty pests can transmit disease both to pets and humans, it’s important to distinguish truth from false. Here are the 6 most common myths about ticks.
1. Pets with Lyme disease can transmit it to humans.
Whether they contracted Lyme disease or any other tick-borne disease, pets cannot transmit it to humans. Only infected ticks can transmit diseases to humans.
However, if your pet is affected, this means that there are ticks in your area, which could also infect you. You are therefore in a risk area.
2. Ticks are only found in rural areas.
Ticks can be found both in rural and urban settings. They can thrive anywhere outdoors, as long as there’s grass.
We regularly discover ticks on dogs from urban areas; their owners often believe that a tumour is growing on their companions. You can live smack downtown and still be at risk if you take your dog on hikes in the woods on weekends.
3. Ticks only live in tall grass.
It was long believed that ticks lived exclusively in tall grass. Though tall grass is a prime habitat for ticks, Ixodes scapularis ticks, or black-legged ticks (Lyme disease carriers), can also live in the carpet of dry leaves at the foot of trees.
4. Ticks fall from trees.
Ticks climb in lower vegetation or take shelter in dry leaves with their front legs raised, waiting to attach to a potential host and feast on its blood. They find hosts by sensing movements or detecting the carbon dioxide they breathe out as they pass by. So, it’s false to say that ticks jump on hosts or fall from trees.
Ticks are among the first active parasites at the end of winter; weeks before mosquitoes, fleas, and flies. It’s not rare to find them on pets as early as March.
5. To remove a tick, burn it with a match or spray it with a harmful substance.
Not only do you run the risk of burning yourself or your dog by using a match, but also: burning a tick will traumatize it and carries the risk of making it regurgitate its own saliva on your dog, further increasing the likelihood of transmitting disease-causing bacteria.
We also do not recommend putting harmful substances on ticks for 2 reasons:
- When a tick absorbs such substance, it’s likely that it will regurgitate the blood it swallowed, which, on top of being disgusting, increases the risk of transmitting diseases.
- You have to wait a while before the substance takes effect and the tick lets go of the skin. Here again, this increases the risk of infection.
If you find a tick on your pet:
- Consult your family veterinarian who will be able to remove the tick safely.
- If you’re unable to see your veterinarian quickly, here’s the best way to remove a tick: using fine-tipped tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin surface as possible, and then pull upward slowly but firmly until the tick detaches.
6. Finding a tick on your pet automatically means they have Lyme disease.
Not necessarily. A tick must feed for a minimum of 24 hours before transmitting the disease. Additionally, not all ticks are infected and not all pets exposed to a carrier tick will develop the disease. The immune system’s response will vary.
This is why prevention is so important as it will avoid quandaries over days or even weeks: Is the tick carrying a disease? How long has it been feeding off my pet? Is my pet showing any symptoms? How long do I have to wait before having my dog tested?
Remember that your veterinarian can help you to prevent, diagnose, and treat ticks. For more information, please contact the nearest Passionimo veterinary clinic.