Monday, 4 April 2011
Ticks – just hitching a ride
I’ve plucked many a tick from our dogs and an occasional one from myself or a member of the family. Always trying to get the whole thing out but never quite realising the significance until I spoke with a couple of people touched by Lyme disease.
The symptoms described are dreadful and the consequences far reaching. One person has been unable to work for the past 6 years, another is recovering but knows there is a chance of recurrence. It’s one of those fairly new diseases about which we know very little for definite.
Why is it called Lyme? After the town in Connecticut where an unusual cluster of arthritis cases was brought to the world’s attention in the 1970s and a few years later the cause was connected with the tick. I bet that discovery has done wonders for the local tourism industry!
From what I understand the ticks lurk around at the top of grasses and other plants waiting for a passing host to snag into. Once on board they climb up to a suitable position then dig in, typically into the nape of a dog’s neck, but anywhere will do.
When digging in, the ticks inject an antiseptic to numb the area and disguise the invasion. Then they gorge themselves for maybe 10 days until the pin-prick sized beast is as big as a grape and drops off. After days of feeding off their larder of blood they’re ready for more, climb up onto the plants and wait for another unsuspecting host; maybe a rabbit, badger or polecat. A rich cocktail of bloods.
The other day, after removing several bloated ticks off Molly, our collie kelpie cross, we had applied the ‘frontline’ tick deterrent. Instead of burrowing in, there were four of them walking around the top of her white fur seeking more tasty skin. Inside the house or car this is a time when humans look particularly appetising to a hungry tick. I carefully plucked the ticks off onto the kitchen table to photograph them – the rest of the family was none too pleased.
Tick Bite Prevention Week begins Monday 11th April and there’s lots of information on their website at http://www.tickbitepreventionweek.org/
For practical advice on tools to remove them, see this short film from someone living in Snowdonia.