Tick offed

July 7, 2013

blog_judy_coolsMoonlighting. A blog by Judy Cools

A quiet, creepy thing is taking place in our lovely forests. Ticks. You know, those horrid little arachnids that burrow into flesh and suck the blood of whatever warm-blooded creature was its unfortunate victim. Of course, ticks in the woods are nothing new. But this many ticks in the north Michigan woods is pretty well unheard of. There are four warm-blooded creatures living in our house, and we each have a story this year.

Our newest dog was a rescue pup. No one knows how long he ran unsupervised, but once caught – yeccch!! He was loaded with ticks. The rescue people plucked them out, then once we got him home, we groomed and plucked and tweezered and pulled and groomed some more. It was disgusting, and we only had the fortitude to continue because we imagined how miserable he must be to be bitten all over.

The statistical average is that one in three ticks carries a transmittable disease. These are Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and a host of other serious, and sometimes fatal diseases. Early detection and proper removal of the tick reduces the risk that the illness will be passed on to the host – whether a person or an animal. We did our best, but odds are not in his favor when you consider how many times he was bitten.

On to victims #2 and #3…. My husband and myself. Each of us has been bitten this year. It’s the first time either of us has had a tick bite in the twelve years we’ve lived here in our woods. So far, so good. We have no obvious ill-effects at this point.

And then we come to warm-blooded resident #4, our other dog. She just tested positive for Lyme disease. The results from more extensive testing are not back yet. We are waiting to find out just how sick she really is, and what (if anything) can be done for her. Lyme disease can be very painful, sometimes settling in bones and joints. Early on, it’s treatable, and can go away. Later stages become a chronic illness, taking away quality of life and actually shortening a person’s (or dog’s) lifespan. The waiting for test results is hard.

Among other factors, scientists speculate that the weather conditions were just right to breed crazy amounts of ticks this spring, and that has helped create the conditions now in the northern Michigan woods.

What to do, what to do? Well, if you have pets and especially if you live, walk, or play in the woods or tall grasses, get informed. I just searched the internet on the words “ticks west Michigan” and I got all sorts of helpful information. The State of Michigan has a couple of good pamphlets, and local news media has some articles about the ticks this year. Even the CDC had some information.

You can also be careful. Use a bug repellant that’s effective on ticks. Especially protect your feet, ankles, and knees from exposure by wearing shoes and socks. Most ticks are found within the first two feet above the ground. Some experts suggest wearing light colors so any small ticks are easier to see, and some recommend tucking your pantlegs into tall socks, tucking your shirt into your slacks, etc.

There are insecticides that will treat an outdoor area for ticks. I’m really not a fan of using such chemicals, but neither do I want to be dinner for a diseased tick. Do your research and consider all the factors that affect where you are thinking about treating, and make an informed decision.

It’s always a good idea to look for ticks before entering your house after being out in tall grasses or in the woods. Brush them off, or better yet kill them, before you accidentally bring them into your home. Protect your pets with a veterinarian-recommended product, taking care to apply it according to directions. Cuddle them, groom them, and check constantly for any of those horrid hitchhikers. And, learn how to remove a tick so it does the least damage to you or to your pet.

Each tick you remove should be put in a container, and labeled with the date you removed it. If you or your pet become sick later, you will have the tick available for testing.

So, for now anyway, the Cools family is Tick-Offed. We’ve gotten rid of all of them on the dogs, and have set up our fortress to keep them off of our dogs, ourselves, and out of our home. Thank goodness — tick season winds down as the weather heats up, so a little extra relief should be on the way.



© 2013, J. Cools

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