Ticks! (a far from "tick-ling" experience)

Ticks! (a far from "tick-ling" experience)
March 19, 2013 by Connie Wilson

A few weeks ago, after taking Esther (my daughter’s dog), and Penny (my dog), out for a walk in the woods I noticed that Esther was limping. I had her roll over on her back so I could more closely examine the pads of her feet thinking that perhaps she had picked up a thorn or pebble. There wasn’t anything wrong with her feet, but to my horror I noticed a brightly coloured and angry looking bulls-eye bruise on the inside of her thigh. I thought that perhaps she had gotten pinched or jabbed by a stick whilst negotiating the woodland trails.

(above: Esther's "bulls-eye" bruise from tick bite)

I got out a magnifying glass to take an even better look and then I saw the culprit. It was a tick. It was small and quite difficult to see, but it was indeed a tick and it was stuck firmly in the middle of the bruise.  It mustn’t have been there long as it wasn’t really engorged yet (ticks embed their heads below the skin and then feed on their host’s blood while their body (that’s outside of the skin) engorges as it feeds. I hadn’t even considered ticks a threat yet since it was just mid-February and the temperature still quite cool (aren’t ticks supposed to be hibernating at this time of year?).  Feeling quite squeamish about extracting the tick, I asked my neighbor Rose, who’s a nurse, if she would remove it, which she did quickly and efficiently, keeping the tick intact (you want to be sure you remove the whole tick as if the head breaks off and is left in the skin, the bite can become infected). Thanking Roselyn for attending to Esther, I trotted the dogs back home, examined them closely for any other ticks then satisfied all was well, went about fixing them dinner which they ate heartily, none the worse for the experience.

The following day as we were on our way to the office I noticed Penny busily scratching at the top of her head. After the third bout of scratching I took a closer look to see what was bothering her. Yuck! There, in the top of her head, stuck side-by-side, were two ticks.

(above: two ticks embedded in Penny's head)

 I knew I had a tick removal device at the office which after searching high and low for (it’s now safely tucked into our doggie first aid kit) I found it and then got Penny set up for the “surgery”.

(above: a tick removal device, like the Tick Key, helps to easily remove a tick whole)

It knew it really wouldn’t be difficult to remove them, it’s just that ticks look a lot like spiders and “spiders” that can bite freak me out. Nevertheless I successfully removed the ticks and put them into a jar of hydrogen peroxide thinking they’d die and I could then bring them into our vet so he could test them to be sure they didn’t carry Lyme disease. 

(above: the ticks removed from Penny's head, still alive and floating in Hydrogen Peroxide)

I then sprayed some Vetericyn onto the tick bite areas of Penny’s head and with the problem taken care of, proceeded to work at my computer. After an hour or so I got up to check on the ticks to be sure they had died a well-deserved death. To my horror there was only one tick left in the jar (btw, it was swimming around in the peroxide – who would think they could survive that chemical?). Aghast, I frantically searched the top of my desk. Where had the other tick gotten to?  I finally located him under some papers. He was heading straight to where I had been sitting and was within a foot from my keyboard. It was a horrifying experience to say the least.  I then decided I wasn’t going to take any further chances on the ticks escaping a second time and proceeded to flush them both down the toilet. Following that less-than-pleasant experience I needed to get back to my work but decided on one last distraction… Googling  the subject “ticks/bruising” on the internet (in the back of my mind I thought it odd that Esther should develop such an ugly looking bruise from her single tick bite, whilst Penny simply had two inflamed areas from her tick run-ins), I would, of course, find all kinds of terrible sounding diseases and infections (not to mention totally gross looking images) that can be caused by tick bites so thereupon I decided to play it safe and brought both dogs into the vet for a checkup. The vet asked if I had brought the ticks in with me, but alas they had been flushed, so in an abundance of caution he decided both dogs should go on antibiotics, which they did and are totally fine. The moral of the story? 1. Ticks can be active even at a time of year we consider to be off-season. 2. Dogs that have been out in the woods should be thoroughly checked over; 3. Have a Tick Key or other tick removal device on hand for easy tick extraction (you also then don’t have to touch the little blighters); 4. After you remove a tick, put it in a sealed jar and take it to your vet so he can ascertain if it’s carrying Lyme disease.

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