On a Louisiana summer day, you wouldn’t suspect you’re surrounded by dozens—possibly hundreds—of ticks wanting to feed on you. Most people don’t see ticks. If they did—if they saw how many are waiting on twigs and leaves and in the brush—they would never go outside again. Next to Fleas, these little bugs can sneak up on you fairly easily without an efficient prevention plan. While small in size, ticks can cause major problems by transmitting dangerous diseases such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain fever. So, before going outdoors this summer, check out the following informationto learn more about the biting buggers.
Veterinarians play a huge part in preventing Lyme disease and other infections. We think about controlling ticks as a public health service, if you have a dog maintained on tick control, the ticks the dog encounters are killed, and they’re not in the home or in the environment and able to transmit infection.
Seven of the 17 vector-borne diseases reportable to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are tick-borne. Nine species of tick found throughout North America are known carriers for these pathogens. Of these, Ixodes scapularis, the blacklegged or deer tick, is the most medically important tick species. Not only is the blacklegged tick a carrier for five of the six pathogens, but it is also the primary carrier of the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi responsible for causing Lyme disease in humans as well as dogs, horses, and cats.
What Ticks are commonly found here in Louisiana?
Blacklegged tick: Adults attack dogs and deer. Also known as the deer tick. Adults are active in late fall, spring and early winter. Transmits Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, babesiosis and Powassan disease.
blacklegged tick, female, male and previous life stages
Credit: Centers for Disease Control
Lone star tick, male and female
Credit: Oklahoma State University
Lone Star tick: These attack people, deer and dogs. Adults and nymphs are around in the spring and summer; the larvae are out in the fall. It can be found mostly in the coastal plain but is also found in the piedmont. The larvae, called seed ticks, prefer humans. These ticks cause Southern Tick Associated Rash Infection, or STARI. The Lone Star tick also causes erhlichiosis.
Gulf Coast tick: This tick is also present in the Southeast closer to the coast but is more widely prevalent in Alabama. Adult ticks feed on deer. This tick transmits Rickettsia parkeri rickettsiosis, a form of spotted fever.
Brown dog tick: Rarely attacks people but is common on dogs. They like to climb up draperies and walls. They’re found throughout the country, so you’ll encounter them wherever you go. Transmits Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
Brown dog tick, photo credit University of Florida
Credit: TAMU Tickapp
American dog tick: Most common in the Piedmont area. Transmits Rocky Mountain spotted fever but NOT Lyme disease.
Cayenne tick: This tick is cold-sensitive but can sometimes be found in southern Florida. They have very long mouthparts, so a bite can be painful and can cause tissue damage. Transmit Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and rickettsia south of the US border.
Ticks are not insects.
It’s true, although they are often mistaken for them. Ticks are considered arachnids, or relatives of spiders, scorpions and mites. If you look closely at a tick when identifying it, it kind of resembles a spider with its four pairs of legs and lack of antennae.
Ticks are mini, real-life vampires… They want to suck your blood.
Blacklegged ticks, for example, tend to feed on the blood of white-tailed deer, but they will also bite mice, small wild animals, birds and humans.
Ticks are daredevils.
Ticks don’t jump or fly. Instead, they crawl up low brush or grass to find a host. Then, they clasp on with their back legs and reach their front legs out to grab onto a passing animal or human. This process is called questing. Sometimes, they even drop from their perch and free fall onto a passing host. Talk about a risky move!
Ticks are dog lovers, too.
Some ticks species, like the American dog tick and brown dog tick, prefer dogs as hosts. Unfortunately, dogs are often easy targets when playing in the yard or going for a walk in wooded areas. If you’re a pet owner, don’t forget to check FIDO frequently for ticks, especially after walks or playtime, and regularly wash bedding and plush toys. If you have an indoor/outdoor cat, be sure to check it regularly for ticks too.
When it comes to feeding, ticks are in it for the long haul.
Unlike many other biting pests, ticks are adapted to feed for long periods of time. They bury their curved teeth deeply into the skin of a host, so they can remain securely attached for days on end to eat. It’s important to note that ticks typically require 24-48 hours of feeding before they can successfully transmit infections like Lyme disease, so prompt removal is crucial.
How To Prevent Efficiently:
In order to protect your furry-friend and yourself from these deviant little bugs, we must first understand their life cycle!
So how do we keep them at bay?
Tick exposure can occur year-round, but ticks are most active during warmer months (April-September).
Before you go outside…
Know where to expect Ticks. They live in grassy, brushy, or wooded areas, or even on animals. Spending time outside walking your dog, camping, gardening, or hunting could bring you in close contact with ticks. Many people get ticks in their own yard or neighborhood.
Use EPA registered insect repellants containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone.
Avoid contact as best as possible by avoiding heavily wooded and brushy areas with high grass and fallen leaves and by walking in the center of trails.
Before returning indoors…
Check your clothing! Tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing after you come indoors. If the clothes are damp, additional time may be needed. If the clothes require washing first, hot water is recommended. Cold and medium temperature water will not kill ticks.
Check your gear and pets thoroughly. Ticks can hitch a ride into the home on backpacks and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats, hats and daypacks.
Shower soon after being outdoors. Showering within two hours of coming indoors has been shown to reduce your risk of getting Lyme disease and may be effective in reducing the risk of other tickborne diseases. Showering may help wash off unattached ticks and it is a good opportunity to do a tick check.
Dogs are very susceptible to tick bites and tick-borne diseases for a number of reasons. Vaccines are not available for most of the tick-borne diseases that dogs can get, and they don’t keep the dogs from bringing ticks into your home. For these reasons, it is vital to use a tick preventive product on your dog.
Tick bites on dogs may also be hard to detect. Signs of tick-borne disease may not appear for 7-21 days or longer after a tick bite, so watch your dog closely for changes in behavior or appetite if you suspect that your pet has been bitten by a tick.
We have a variety of prevention plan options at our clinic! Contact us to go over what will work for you and your pet.
To further reduce the chances that a tick bite will make your dog sick:
Check your pets for ticks daily, especially after they spend time outdoors.
If you find a tick on your pet, remove it right away.
Note: Cats are extremely sensitive to a variety of chemicals. Do not apply any tick prevention products to your cats without first asking your veterinarian!
In The Yard:
Pesticides! Use of pesticides can reduce the number of ticks in treated areas of your yard. However, you should not rely on spraying to reduce your risk of infection.
Always follow label instructions. Before spraying, check with local health or agricultural officials about:
The best time to apply pesticide in your area
The best type of pesticide to use
Rules and regulations regarding pesticide application on residential properties
Create a Tick-safe Zone to Reduce Blacklegged Ticks in the Yard
Here are some simple landscaping techniques that can help reduce blacklegged tick populations:
Remove leaf litter.
Clear tall grasses and brush around homes and at the edge of lawns.
Place a 3-ft wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas to restrict tick migration into recreational areas.
Mow the lawn frequently.
Stack wood neatly and in a dry area (discourages rodents).
Keep playground equipment, decks, and patios away from yard edges and trees.
Discourage unwelcome animals (such as deer, raccoons, and stray dogs) from entering your yard by constructing fences.
Remove old furniture, mattresses, or trash from the yard that may give ticks a place to hide.
The sooner you remove a tick, the better. It takes time for infections to reach a person’s blood stream, especially Lyme disease. A tick needs to remain attached for 36 hours before Lyme disease can be transmitted, so remove any ticks as quickly as you can. However, you may not always know if you’ve been bitten by a tick, and therefore won’t know to keep an eye out for symptoms of tickborne disease.