Ticks: Gross!

By: Tyler Kent CPDT-KA

If you’re on the east coast this summer, there are ticks on your dog. There are ticks everywhere.

At the start of each summer and into the fall, we have a significant number of daycare dogs that travel the east coast. Inevitably they come back with ticks. This usually isn’t a problem due to preventative treatments and the vaccine for Lyme disease. A stray tick here or there is manageable.

This year it’s something worse. Something on the level of a biblical plague. And I wanted to know what the f*** was going on.

It all started hundreds of years ago when our ancestors came to the east coast. They chopped down every tree they could find to keep warm and build masts for ships (only those two things). Fast forward a couple centuries. Large areas of land that were once farming communities or felled forests were now regrowing. These new forests were speckled with homes and crossed with roads. Critters came back to the small areas of thick growth. Predators stayed away. Skittish by nature, the dangers of the meal outweighed the benefits.

As we all know, 2015 was a good year for the acorn. Oak trees were yielding buckets full. Scientists were predicting a white footed mice population boom in 2016. The scientists were right. F***ing mice everywhere. Two more scientists came along and predicted that 2017 was going to see an influx of Lyme disease cases. The white footed mice (Lyme carriers) are the perfect meal for the black legged tick (deer tick). Each mouse is capable of carrying hundreds of ticks at a time.The scientists were right. F***ing ticks everywhere.  Now we had the perfect components for a biblical plague of Lyme infected ticks.

What are Ticks Anyways?

Ticks are from the arachnid family, gross. They are external parasites, gross. They drink blood, gross. The ticks we deal with are called hard ticks. They have an armor like exterior that makes them impossible to crush. They use tiny death-beaks that cut holes in the skin. Then, they insert a harpoon straw to extract their blood meal. It gets worse.

Hard ticks have four stages in their life cycle. Stage one: the egg. Harmless at this point, they are laid on the ground. Stage two: larval. The larvae feed on birds and small mammals. Stage three: nymph. This stage is terrible because they are the size of a poppy seed. Often times they can spend up to ten hours on a host just looking for the best place to grab a snack. Usually, it’s on the soft skin behind the ears, in the armpits, or groin area. Stage four: Adult. At this point, they drink their last meal, fall off the host, lay 3000 eggs, and die. It takes three hosts to get to the adult stage. Sometimes this process can take up to a year. Thus, bad mice plague 2016. Biblical tick plague 2017.

One more thing, they mate to populate. The male ticks will hang out on a host, snack, and wait for a beautiful lady. The one-night-stand occurs before the females last meal.

What is Lyme Disease?

I don’t want to be an alarmist. An alarmist was the reason I started this post. I was freaking out about the ten ticks I found on my dog after a ten-minute hike. I went online, and like most internet searches, the deeper down the rabbit hole I went, the darker the world became. I found this article first, “The East Coast is Going to Be a Warzone for Lyme Disease This Year.” I was sounding the alarms. It’s DEFCON 100. Run for you f***ing lives. All of a sudden Lyme was everywhere and I was dying at my desk. I needed to regain control. I needed knowledge.

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection. Contracting it can bring on fever, headache, and fatigue. It starts with a skin rash around the bite that looks like a bullseye. Untreated, the infection can spread to joints, kidneys, heart, and the nervous system. Typical cases can be treated with antibiotics. That doesn’t seem so bad. It gets better.

Only 5 percent of dogs that contract Lyme disease are actually affected by it. Vets will routinely check blood for Lyme and other diseases. What are they finding? Antibodies already in the blood for Lyme disease. Most dogs have contracted it and built up the immunities naturally. I thought it was all over for my furry friend. Thank god for science. Follow this link for more info and a look at the beagle study, it’s fascinating.

Protecting Your Dog

What about the five percent!? So if you are super paranoid I would recommend having your vet test your dog and then administer the Lyme vaccine. If you aren’t into vaccines, there are various topical or edible tick and flea prevention systems.

Picking the right brand

I’m not going to tell you anything different than the first page results of a google search. The top two brands are K9 Advantix and Frontline in that order. I wanted to know how they worked and if they were safe.

The topical brands are absorbed by the skin and become part of the sebaceous system. The sebaceous system is the glands that excrete oil to keep the skin moist and waterproof. Once in the system, the topical mixture is spread evenly over your dog. They work by killing the parasite once it attaches to the host.

K9 Advantix:  44% of the mixture is permethrin. Permethrin kills all the gross crawling creatures that might take refuge on your dog. It is approved by the world health organization and is used to treat all military clothing for bug protection. DO NOT USE ON YOUR CAT! It has been deemed safe to use on kids over two months of age and pregnant women, so it’s pretty f***in safe. Coming in at 8.8%, imidacloprid is another insecticide that acts as a neurotoxin to bugs. It has a low toxicity to mammals, so our pups are safe. At 0.4% we have pyriproxyfen which inhibits the eggs from growing into adults. And finally coming in at 46.76% is “other ingredients” also called “inert ingredients.” This is a bundle of pesticides that are used across the board in similar products. Pretty shady, but bugs are gross so who cares.

Frontline: 9.8% of the mixture is fipronil. Fipronil is broad use insecticide with the same disadvantages of permethrin. If one were to ingest a bunch of it, they’re gonna have a bad time. It’s just speculation, but the low percentage in the mixture might be telling of the toxicity of this pesticide. At 8.8% we have methoprene. It is added to combat the eggs and larvae of the pest. It doesn’t kill the larvae, it just inhibits them from growing to the adult stage. 81.4% of the mixture is the “inert ingredients.” You’re suspect Frontline.

Bravecto: Bravecto is the insecticide you can eat! Seems legit. When digested, Bravecto spreads throughout the dog’s body, they weren’t really specific on the details. The active ingredient attacks the nervous system of the parasite by blocking specific neurotransmitters. The parasite is paralyzed within hours of your dog taking Bravecto. More behind the science here.
The active ingredient is fluralaner. This product was approved by the FDA in 2014. Links to all these ingredients are at the bottom of this post. Go see for yourself how extensive the wiki page is for fluralaner.

Insect Shield: Insect Shield treats clothing items with permethrin, the same insecticide in K9 Advantix. They make doggy shirts and bandanas that keep the nasty bugs off your dog while keeping them stylish. It is supposed to kill the insect before it passes through the treated textile. Does it work? The military uses it, so…

Other Products

The various organic compounds work by repelling nasty bugs. They do nothing in the way of killing the parasites. Mainly the compounds work by disrupting the olfaction of the parasites, meaning they tend to completely stay away from the desired targets.

2-undecanone: 2-undecanone (BioUD) is an oil derived from the leaves and stems of the wild tomato plant. It is registered with the EPA as a repellent for ticks. When tested against permethrin, BioUD and deet were both more effective at repelling ticks[1]. Further studies concluded that BioUD was greater at repelling ticks than undiluted deet[2]. Pretty cool right!? The interesting thing, BioUD is also sold as an animal repellent. I’m not so sure you want to spray your dog with something meant to repel him.

Mixed Essential Oils: This category includes rosemary, lemongrass, cedar, peppermint, thyme, and geraniol. The EPA deemed all of these compounds safe for commercial use, so they are exempt from the registry. When used to treat wooded areas, the botanical compounds were an effective repellent of ticks for up to a year after the first spray[3]. The oils work similar to deet and BioUD, by disrupting the olfaction. Again, the scent will be bothersome to your dog as well. Also, if a tick does get on your dog, it won’t kill them when they begin to feed.

Nootkatone: This botanical compound is derived from the oils of Alaskan yellow cedar trees. A registration has been filed with the EPA and under review. This compound is said to kill as well as repel ticks. Could this essential oil bridge the gap between naturalists and everyone else? A boy can dream.

Removal

Once a tick is on your dog and imbedded, I would not recommend using botanical treatments for removal. But I saw a video on Facebook that… Here’s a video on the peppermint oil treatment:

Peppermint oil totally works! In reality, if this tick was a male (they’re smaller and darker in color) which I am not qualified to determine, it would be more likely to remove itself because males aren’t in it for a feast [4]. They just need a light snack and some lovin’. Females will not let go.

This video shows both the match and the peppermint oil don’t aid in tick removal. But one video doesn’t prove anything. The official removal technique from the CDC website writes, “a plain set of fine-tipped tweezers will remove a tick quite effectively.” Grab the head, don’t squeeze the juices out of the butt, and lift straight out of the skin. Or try the other methods you find online because the who trusts the government.

Another technique, if you don’t happen to have teeny-tiny tweezers, is the spin technique. You can use a finger, a q-tip, or this sweet tick tool. The idea is to spin the tick like you are unscrewing it from your skin. It is said to confuse the tick and make them let go on their own. I can get behind this method because you are not squeezing the butt juice (sorry) into your dog’s body. Though, the head may break off and cause an infection on the skin. So spin with caution.

What We’ve Learned

The top preventative measures kill the ticks. Organic compounds will repel them, and Lyme disease is manageable if we are vigilant. So, keep on taking your pup on hikes, but we can agree that ticks are still gross. Kill them all with fire, and have a great day.

K9 Advantix
Imidacloprid
Permethrin 
Pyriproxyfen 

Frontline
Fipronil 
Methoprene 

Bravecto
Fluralaner
Bravecto Report

Insect Shield

Tick Wikipedia 

CDC 

Tick Diseases   
Tick Removal         
          

Holistic

Center For Disease Control

Consumer Reports

   
[1] Bissinger, B.W., C.S. Apperson, D.W. Watson, C. Arellano, D.E. Sonenshine, and R.M. Roe.  2011.  Novel field assays and the comparative repellency of BioUD, DEET, and permethrin against Amblyomma americanum. Med. Vet. Entomol. 25:217-226.

[2] Bissinger, B.W., C.S. Apperson, D.E. Sonenshine, D.W. Watson, and R.M. Roe.  2009.  Efficacy of the new repellent BioUD against three species of ixodid ticks. Exp. Appl. Acarol. 48:239-250.

[3] Rand, P.W., E.H. Lacombe, S.P. Elias, C.B. Lubelczyk, T.W., ST. Amand, and R.P. Smith, Jr.  2010.  Trial of a minimal-risk botanical compound to control the vector tick of Lyme disease. J. Med. Entomol. 47:695-698.

[4] Sgobba, Christina (2017, May 26) Why You Should Never Use Peppermint Oil to Remove a Tick. Retrieved from http://www.menshealth.com/health/peppermint-oil-for-tick-removal-dangers

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