Is Your Dog a Tick’s Best Friend?

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Is Your Dog a Tick’s Best Friend?

By Dr. Lee S. Yudin

Pacific Daily News

March 28, 1998

Homeowners on Guam who are also dog owners know all too well about the notorious brown dog tick. The brown dog tick, which is probably the most common tick in the world, can on rare occasions attack humans, but its preferred host is “man’s best friend” – the dog. This external parasite of dogs can become a serious pest if they are not properly controlled.

Before feeding, both the males and female adult brown dog ticks are about 1/8 inch long and dark red-brown. After a blood meal, the female may double or triple in size and become a dark blue-gray color because of her blood-stretched body. The adult female may suck up to 0.3 ml of blood per day. The adult female needs a blood meal for nourishment and for the development of her eggs. The male hardly expands.

The dog tick feeds by injecting its mouthparts into the skin of the dog. After feeding and mating on the dog, the adult female will leave the dog and search for a place to lay her eggs. Female ticks will usually place their eggs in cracks and crevices either inside or outside the house and near places routinely visited by the dog.

The female can lay up to 5,000 eggs in one mass and then dies. When the eggs hatch, in 3 to 12 weeks, the young developing ticks will climb on outside vegetation, inside walls or furniture to search for a dog to feed on. If they do not find a host, they can easily wait for more than six months without having to feed. When a host is found, these young six-legged ticks will feed and spend one week sucking blood from the dog; they then drop off and molt into eight-legged youths in one to two weeks.

These eight-legged developing ticks search once again for a dog to feed on fro another week, drop off, seek shelter and molt into an adult in two to four weeks. An adult tick will seek out a dog and feed for 2 to 6 weeks. Once the adult female tick mates, the cycle starts all over again. An adult tick can survive for two years without feeding if a host cannot be found. Homes and yards can be infested by the visit of a dog who drops mated female ticks. Other dogs can become infested when they are taken to an infested kennel or a home where ticks have successfully attached themselves to the dog.

It is difficult to totally isolate your dog from other dogs on Guam. To inspect every dog that enters your property for ticks is nearly impossible. The key to reducing tick infestation on your dog is early detection. Look especially behind the ears, neck, and between the toes of your pet. If a tick is found, pull it straight out with a pair of tweezers close to the skin of the animal. Kill the tick by drowning it in soapy water or flushing it down the toilet.

In addition, look for ticks in rooms where dogs sleep, under rugs and furniture, and in cracks and crevices around baseboards, tile, and cabinets. Vacuuming the dog’s sleeping areas will also help reduce tick numbers. If you are inspecting for ticks outside the house, look for ticks climbing on the exterior walls of your house and in plant beds where the dog sleeps or rests.

You can treat dogs by using pesticidal dips, washes, or dusts, although most of these store bought products do not last more than a few days. Your local veterinarian may carry pesticidal products which are more effective than what you can purchase from your local supermarket or hardware store. Your veterinarian may also carry pills that you can feed your dog if tick infestation is severe.

If you decide to use an insecticide to treat the inside or outside of the house, read the label carefully. Follow all instructions on where and where not to spray. There are many different active ingredients found in the market place to control ticks. However, in cases of heavy infestations I recommend that you consult a pest control professional who is authorized to use stronger chemicals than what may be available over the counter. More than one treatment may be required, depending on the severity of infestation.

A clean pet and a clean environment is the best you can provide for your dog and the rest of your dog ad the rest for your pets. Just remember that ticks are true survivor and they are just waiting for the chance to jump on to your dog for their next feeding. Tick control on Guam and in Micronesia is a continuous process that requires vigilance. The key is simultaneous treatment of your dog and its immediate environment.