Ticks And Tick Control

Introduction

Ticks lay eggs which hatch into larvae and develop into nymphs before becoming adults. After the eggs hatch each maturation event (called molting) requires the immature tick to feed on blood first. The adult female must also feed on blood prior to laying her eggs. The female will drop off the animal to lay her eggs (up to 6,000 depending on the species), and after they hatch, the larvae will climb a blade of grass or other object and wait for the presence of a suitable host on which to attach. After feeding on a blood meal, some species of ticks will stay attached to the host during molting, while other species will drop back to the ground to molt. Therefore depending on the life cycle, a hard tick will be classified as either a 1-, 2-or 3-host tick (depending on how many hosts the tick feeds during its development). As a general rule, the more hosts that a tick utilizes, the greater the potential for disease transmission (due to a higher number of animals exposed).

Medical Problems Caused by Ticks

As mentioned previously, ticks can cause a variety of problems. For instance, depending on the number of ticks, the size and age of the animal as well as its overall health, ticks can drink enough blood to seriously deplete a pet. This blood loss may result in poor hair coat, weight loss, a general poor performance or even death. Even without causing anemia, the bites of ticks are irritating and animals can even develop allergic reactions to tick bites.

Tick Control

Effective eradication of ticks is not easy, requiring simultaneous treatment of both the environment and animal. Consultation with a veterinarian is strongly recommended to obtain the strongest yet safest products available.

Although ticks tend to congregate in and around the ears, between the toes, and around the head and neck, the entire body should be treated if several ticks are evident. Most dips designed for this purpose are effective, although engorged female ticks may be difficult to kill. Many of the dips, especially those including permethrin, dioxathion and chlorfenvinphos give some residual protection for up to two weeks.

Perhaps not surprising, typical flea and tick collars and medallions are usually not effective in treatment. However, flea collars containing appropriate insecticides can aid in tick control for 6 (propoxur) to 16 (chlorfenvinphos) weeks; if pets get ticks they will have to be treated with appropriate powders, sprays or dusts. In most areas of the country, collars should be placed on an animals in March, at the beginning of the tick season and changed regularly. Leaving the collar on when the insecticide level is waning invites the development of resistance in insects although we have rarely experienced this with ticks. A new type of tick collar has recently become available that contains the active ingredient amitraz (Preventic?:Virbac). These collars cause the tick to release from the skin within 24-48 hours. This is particularly useful because most diseases transmitted by ticks require 48-72 hours of attachment. Each collar lasts 3-4 months.

Tick control in the environment is difficult because most of the ticks are found in grassy and wooded areas. Currently only chlorpyrifos (Dursban) and tetrachlorvinphos (Rabon) are registered with the EPA for area-wide control of ticks. Application to problem areas in April or May, then again in June or July offers the best options for practical yet effective tick control.

In contrast to most other ticks, the brown dog tick presents a different problem in that it can infest kennels and runs as well as hiding within houses and the insulation in attics. It also has been found in crevices in walls, in bedding, and in other debris found around kennels. In severe infestations, especially where ticks are located indoors, professional pest control companies should be used. A variety of insecticide ingredients (eg. resmethrin, carbaryl, permethrin, chlorpyrifos, dioxathion and allethrin) are registered for tick control around the home.

In kennel situations, resin-based paints can be used to seal crevices, which prevents ticks from using these crevices while they are developing. Removal of trash in dog runs and the frequent changing of used bedding also can reduce the potential of problems related to ticks.

Before you begin stocking up on insecticides, consider some practical alternatives. Removal of underbrush, leaf litter, and thinning of trees in areas where tick control is desired is recommended. This removes the cover and food sources for small mammals that serve as hosts for ticks and, with continued mowing of grasses in the area, further reduce the probability of ticks surviving. Ticks must have adequate cover that provides high levels of moisture and at the same time provides an opportunity of contact with animals.

Careful inspection of cats and humans after walks through wooded areas (where ticks and small host mammals may be found) and careful removal of all ticks can be very important in the prevention of disease. Wearing light-colored clothing will make the ticks easier to find on you, and wearing long sleeve shirts and pants, with pant legs tucked into the socks will also help protect you from being bitten. This is especially important in areas where tick- borne diseases are commonly found. Applying repellents (eg. DEET, Permanone) prior to and during walks through outdoor areas can also be helpful in preventing tick bites. Insecticides and repellents should only be applied to pets following appropriate veterinary advice, since indiscriminate use can be dangerous.

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