Why ticks are so dangerous to humans and pets — Kaitlin’s student essay

Why Ticks Are So Dangerous To Humans And Pets?

Lyme Disease, one of the most well-known tick-borne diseases, is typically transmitted by the bite of an infected deer tick. Lyme disease is found in the Northeastern, Mid-Atlantic, and North-Central United States. The western blacklegged tick spreads the disease one the Pacific coast. Ticks cannot fly or jump, so they usually wait for a host by resting on the tips of grasses and shrubs and climb onto a passing host. Ticks can attach itself to any part of the body in humans and pets.

They are typically found in hard to see areas. In most cases, the tick must be attached for 36 to 48 hours or more before the Lyme disease bacterium can be transmitted. Early signs and symptoms of Lyme disease (3 to 30 days after a tick bite) include: the “classic” bullseye rash, fever, chills, headache, fatigue, and muscle and joint aches. Later signs and symptoms of Lyme disease (days to months after the bite) can include: facial palsy, nerve pain, inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, as well as heart palpitations (Lyme carditis).

People treated with the appropriate antibiotics in the early stages of Lyme disease typically recover quickly and completely. People with certain neurological or cardiac forms of the illness may need intravenous treatment with antibiotics. People with Lyme disease can recover when treated within a few weeks of antibiotics taken by mouth.

Close-up of Tick attached next to an Australian Shepherd's eye

There are other diseases transmitted by ticks as well such as the Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, which is transmitted by American dog ticks, Rocky Mountain wood ticks, and brown dog ticks. It is prevalent throughout all regions of the United States. Symptoms include: lethargy, stomach pain, and vomiting. This disease can be fatal if not treated properly.

tick crawling on human hand

Dogs have a few over the counter tick preventatives while others are only available through the veterinarian. There are effective month preventatives that are typically applied to the skin at the back of the neck and represent a convenient method of control for ticks. There are also chewable products such as Nexgard that are given monthly.

Humans can protect themselves from ticks by wearing a chemical repellent with DEET, permethrin, or picardin. The best thing to do is to wear protective clothing that covers your arms and legs and tuck pant legs into socks. When in the woods, keep to the center of the trail, where ticks are less likely to be.

It’s important to check ourselves and out pets often, and even more so during tick season, to prevent getting any of the diseases it may carry. If you find a tick on you or your pet, use a fine tipped tweezer or disposable gloves to handle the tick. Infectious agents can be contracted through mucous membranes or breaks in the skin simply by handline infected ticks. You want to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible to reduce the possibility of the head detaching from the body upon removal. Pull the tick straight out with a stead, even pressure. After removing the tick, thoroughly disinfect the bite area and wash your hands with soap and water. You can preserve the tick in rubbing alcohol for identification by the veterinarian or physician diagnosing an illness.

Author: Kaitlin Griffin

University of Arizona
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