We have many articles dedicated to the various different types of ticks, control methods, facts and the diseases they can transmit. Find out about how to combat infestations, which tick treatments you may need and how to remove these parasites by clicking on the articles above which can be reached via the blue links. Below we have a quick overview of what a tick is and how you could identify the parasite.
What is a tick? The definition of a tick is as follows: A tick is defined as any of two families of small parasitic arachnids with barbed proboscis which feed on blood of warm-blooded animals. Ticks are species of big parasitic mites which fasten to, and feed off/suck the blood of animals such as deer, dogs, cats and cattle - as well as humans. Once the parasite is full on blood it becomes swollen, oval-shaped and a darker color, usually dark red. Some of the species often attach themselves to the human body. There are approximately 850 species across the world. Scientists have classified ticks into two families based upon their structure: Ixodidae and Argasidae. Unlike fleas which are a type of insect, ticks are from the order Arachnida as they have eight legs (although they hatch with six), four each side and no antennae. They do not have wings nor do they have the ability to jump. They move between hosts by crawling on their legs or by falling and then attaching themselves with clasps. Ticks are known to hide in cracks and crevices undetected until an unaware host comes by, then they crawl on. They are also transported from one host to another by birds and animals (sometimes house pets).
How big are ticks? - Ticks can vary in size and color. These are normally determined by the sex (females are usually larger), age (newly hatched are smaller), specie (there are over 800 species) and if it has recently fed on a host. Having just had a meal, they do increase in size and their color darkens making them easier to detect on the skin or under a pets fur. Female ticks need to feed to have the strength to lay eggs, however once they do; they have the ability to lay thousands of eggs in their lifetime. They are normally distinguished in two categories, hard and soft ticks.
Where are ticks found? - Ticks are attracted to a host by body heat, odor (from the skin) and carbon dioxide. Therefore they are not only attracted to animals but also to humans. Bites on humans are common with those that work or spend time in the countryside, woods, forests, farms and in areas where tick populations thrive. The tick bite does not normally cause too much pain but it is important that they are removed swiftly and safely.
Bites from ticks - Ticks embed themselves in the skin, making them difficult to remove properly. One thing that you want to avoid when trying to remove these parasites from the skin is breaking them in half and leaving part of the body or head still in the skin. As the tick deeply embeds its head in the skin, it should be carefully prized out with a pair of tweezers or removed with a device - anything left in the skin could cause infection. If this does happen, then you could visit a doctor or a veterinarian. If you start suffering from a fever or headache as a result of being bitten, consult a doctor immediately.
What are Ticks?
Ticks and diseases - Infected ticks can transmit numerous diseases but are more commonly linked to Lyme disease (also known as Lyme Borreliosis). They are also able to spread Q fever (Q for query - an unidentified infection to begin with), Babeosis (a malaria-like parasitic disease) spread by B. canis (a parasite that infects dogs, cattle, horses, poultry, and humans), Ehrlichiosis, also known as 'tracker dog disease and 'canine typhus' (a bacterial infection that kills white blood cells), Meningoencephalitis (a meningitis-like infection), Anaplasmosis (another disease that affects white blood cells) and jaundice in dogs (yellowing of the skin and eyes). Other diseases include Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Tick Paralysis, Cytauxzoonosis (infects cats, referred to as C. felis) and Hepatozoonosis (infects dogs, coyotes and foxes). All of which are passed on through their saliva and contact with the blood of their host. Weak house pets (young puppies and kittens, old dog and cats or generally just suffering from ill health) are at risk from ticks, as they can cause them anemia. Farm cattle, horses, deer and a range of other mammals are also at risk.
Tick prevention - There are many ways that you can prevent ticks from causing you, your family and your pets problems and you'll be comforted to know that the majority of prevention methods are very straight forward! If you are aware of areas that are prevalent with ticks it would only be sensible to avoid them (if you can). If you are a keen walker (or dog walker) or enjoy rambling and you are venturing into areas where there may be ticks, take the necessary precautions for you and your pet. Only stick to open pathways or trails and do not go into meadows or areas of high grasses and vegetation. Remember that ticks stick to high vegetation in wait for passing 'hosts' to arrive! They will crawl onto you given the chance and may end up embedding in your skin. Always wear protective clothing, such as long pants, socks and footwear that cover the feet. If necessary, tuck your socks into your pants so your ankles aren't exposed. Likewise, tuck your top into your pants so ticks cant access your midriff. Use a strong repellent, preferably that contains Deet. Use a skin friendly repellent on your skin, applying it to all areas exposed (arms, neck, ears) - and use another one for your clothing with Permethrin. Wearing light colored clothing may also help in spotting any ticks that crawl onto your clothes! Finally - always check yourself and your pets over before re-entering your home or vehicle. Ticks like warm areas of the body so check behind ears, knees, underarms and in hair. An added ticks prevention method could be to wash and dry any potentially 'infected' clothing on a high heat. Its unlikely a tick would survive such a tumble - just be careful not to shrink your clothes in the process...
The tick life cycle has 4 stages - the egg, the larvae (seed tick), the nymph and the adult. The life cycle starts when the egg hatches into a six-legged larva, or seed tick. Following a blood meal, the larva sheds its skin and the next stage of the life cycle is entered when the larva becomes an eight-legged nymph. Following another blood meal, the nymph sheds its skin and becomes an adult. Adult female ticks then attach themselves to a warm-blooded animal, engorges on the blood of the animal or pet, mates, leaves the host, deposits several thousand eggs and dies. Adult ticks can live for over 1 year without feeding.
Learn about the different types of tick. Discover when is the tick season, removal techniques and symptoms of bites. Look up the treatment, remedies and control of dog and cat ticks. The deer tick, which is found on animals, pets and humans, is smaller than the dog tick. Although smaller it can be painful as the deer tick has tiny barbs in its mouth to anchor it securely on the chosen host. The tiny barbs make removal of this tick difficult which can lead to infection. The deer tick is a carrier of a Lyme disease which causes symptoms similar to arthritis and, if not treated, can affect the liver, heart, and lungs.
Helpful tips and Facts about Ticks
Prepare for tick season, learn about the life cycle of a tick, the symptoms one may suffer from a tick bite and how to act should you be bitten
Educate others on Ticks and encourage Prevention!
Look after young children and pets by keeping them away from Ticks - and always apply repellents if need be
Understand the best methods to remove a tick - and always seek professional medical advice if you have any concerns - it is better to be safe than sorry!