by Dr. Bernstein
LOS ANGELES, CA – With the passage of time, changes occur in our environment. One of the indicators
of this change is variation in the plant and animal species in our community. In my early years of practice, I would rarely see a dog with a tick. If a dog presented with one, I could safely assume that he had frequented the local horse race track. Now, I regularly see tick-infested dogs from many different neighborhoods.
Another change we are experiencing is the increasing ability to identify diseases which previously went unrecognized. Ticks and disease have a close relationship. They are known to harbor and transmit many diseases of humans, pets, livestock and wildlife.
Ticks have three developmental stages. Each stage feeds on an animal’s blood and can transmit disease organisms.
Tick eggs are laid on the ground and hatch into small, tick-like 6-legged larvae. These larval ticks attach to an animal host, suck blood, drop off, and molt into 8-legged nymphs. These nymphal ticks also find an animal host, feed, then drop off to molt into 8-legged adults. The adult ticks repeat the process and after engorging with blood (up to 1 teaspoon each), drop off to lay eggs. This pattern of development gives the tick three different animal hosts from which they can pick up and transmit infectious agents.
This pattern of development gives the tick three different animal hosts from which they can pick up and transmit infectious agents.
Since ticks can live several years and produce 20,000 eggs, their threat to the health of animals and humans is immense. Ticks can be so numerous that weakness or death from blood loss is a reality.
The list of tick-borne diseases is extensive. It includes: erlichiosis, tick paralysis, tularemia, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, babesiosis, Q Fever, and Lyme Disease.
Although ticks can be controlled with topical treatments, elimination is more difficult that it is for fleas. Be sure to inspect your pet daily, especially after outings in the fields or woods. By combining vigilance with routine preventive tick treatment methods, you can minimize the risks of encountering these blood-sucking arachnids in the future.