Saturday, July 16, 2005

What makes ticks tick

I saw a dog on Friday for her annual check-up and for a tick. Her owners noticed a tick the day before behind her ear. The husband said he heard nailpolish would suffocate the tick and cause it to fall off. The wife didn't have any nailpolish, but she did have liquid bandage. She figured that was pretty much the same thing so she coated the tick in liquid bandage.

Liquid bandage is made up of the same stuff as in Super Glue. The tick shriveled up and died but then became permanently attatched to the sweet dog! Inside I was cracking up! They were trying to get the tick off the dog and instead glued it onto her.

I have heard all kinds of crazy methods for getting ticks off, including applying the burned match, vaseline, and rubbing alcohol. One old vet told me to pull the tick out clockwise because that's the way its mouthparts "screwed" into the flesh. Most of these methods are to supposedly prevent the head from becoming imbedded.

Here's the truth about ticks: when they are attatched, there is a cement-like material that glues their mouthparts in. Until they are engorged and this material is dissolved by another biochemical process, they cannot physically disengage their mouthparts, no matter how many hot matches you put on their little bodies. Also, only the mouthparts are in the skin, so the head is not going to get stuck and continue to grow or fester. The best thing to do is grab the tick near the base and pull slowly and steadily out. Interestingly, that cement also has an antiinflammatory effect, so that the tick can stay without causing pain that the host may notice. Once its gone, the antiinflammatories are gone, so you might get a red, raised bump (suspiciously looking like a tick head?).

Also, ticks do not drop on you out of trees. Even scientists believed this for years until they studied ticks and found none of them in trees. Instead, they wait on blades of grass for a host to walk by, waving their front legs in front of them. When you brush by, they grab your leg and scramble up your body. They can climb from your ankle to your shoulder in less than 90 seconds. When you notice them on your shoulder or back, you think they must've dropped there from a tree.

Also, ticks can wait on that blade of grass for over a year, just waiting for you to walk by. And many ticks are about the size of a poppyseed. Think you're going to see that on your furry dog? Better to keep them on monthly prevention.


Emily said...

Eew! They can crawl from your ankle to your shoulder that fast?!? It's making me itch just thinking about those nasty bugs.

messymama said...

I agree with Emily: Eew! And that's really funny about the couple gluing the the tick onto their dog. I think the nail polish treatment is for chiggers, not ticks. Thanks for such an elucidating post!


Jess said...

Wow, just reading that post made me want to stay away from grass...gross! I feel really bad for that dog, ticks are really nasty. I hope you set those owners straight about ticks. Poor dog.

Bakes said...

Jennifer - popped onto your blog randomly just by clicking on "next blog" and wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed reading about your exploits as a vet! Very interesting and also entertaining - great blog!

- Karyn

PS - I'm also itchy from the tick story....