A couple of years ago, I looked after a hedgehog during the winter because when we found it it would have been too small to survive hibernation. During this time we fed it lots and it grew big and fat by spring. However, during this time Twix the hedgehog got some ticks. We read in the St Tiggywinkles Animal Care book that ticks should be left and they will fall off eventually. So this is what we did and after some time, the ticks fell off and we never thought twice about them.
But, a few months ago, my dog got a tick. At first we were unsure of what to do, however we assumed that this case would be very similar to the hedgehog one, although the tick was a lot smaller and looked very different. But after leaving it for a few days we could see no progress from my careful monitoring, so we looked to the internet. Reading on lots of sites various methods to remove ticks, we thought we had better try something. Action was provoked when, the same evening as we were doing research, I looked to Simba and saw that his nose was covered in blood. Quickly assessing, I realised that this must have been caused by the tick. Looking back on it now, I think that he must have brushed against something or scratched himself, causing the tick to detach slightly from his skin. As I cleaned up his nose with antiseptic to get a better look, we resorted to the most convenient and quickest option we had read. This was to apply alcohol. Apparently, covering the tick in alcohol paralyses it and therefore loosens its jaw and causes it to fall off. Dabbing on some whisky, the parasite immediately fell off on the cotton bud leaving Simba fit, healthy and unaffected.
But the tick problem came back to haunt us. When on holiday in August in North Yorkshire with Simba, I was brushing him when I came across a burr stuck in his fur. This is not an unusual occurance for Simba, as he loves to dig around in the bushes. However, on closer inspection, I saw that this burr was not going to be pulled out easily. In fact, it was another tick. After having spent time on work experience at Kingsnorth Vets, I had seen a tick remover being used for the obvious purpose of removing ticks. Now I knew that alcohol was probably not the best option, and so we went in search of a pet shop. Here we bought a tick remover in two different sizes and removed the nuisance with a quick twist. Problem solved.
But what is a tick?
From my experience, ticks are very interesting creatures. They are parasites and attach themselves to animals (including humans) to drink blood until they have had their fill so drop off.
On looking further into it, I have discovered that they are in the arachnid family, hence the eight legs, in the order Ixodida (leach). They can also carry a number of diseases.
What especially interests me at the moment, is the significant difference I was able to observe between the ticks on the hedgehog and those on Simba. This must be down to species.
This shows the classification of the tick, of which there are three families. The family nuttalliellidae only contains one species. This is found in Southern Africa so is of no significance to me. There are also hard ticks and soft ticks, hard being the most common.
But whatever the tick, there is always a prominent risk of infection from them. It is made especially bad because ticks often carry multiple pathogens, all of which can be passed into the body if the tick is not removed as quickly as possible. The most well known one of these is Lyme Disease which is caused by at least three species of bacteria. However, other illnesses include carried by bacteria, viruses and toxins which can pass into the body. Although most of these diseases are not life threatening to an animal, it is very important to remove ticks from pets as quickly as possible. This is the best form of prevention and although ticks are strange, yet fascinating creatures, they should not be allowed to accompany one’s for any longer than necessary.