Tick Trouble: Learning the Hard Way
Tick on Dog in Leaves: Getty Images
It may seem overprotective that their divorced baby boomer mama, me, doesn’t want to risk their coming into contact with deer and dog ticks.
In New York City’s suburb to the north, Westchester, where we live, we go for walks on the sidewalk. Oncoming cars are practically safer! Putting tick medicine on them doesn’t help much, either. My motley crew, with short and long hair, attract these creepy buggers.
The Llasa Cocker mix, Fenway, has the longest hair and his legs are very low to the ground. Fenway’s had lyme disease twice.
The first time happened three years ago when he was three-years-old. We were living in upstate New York’s Hudson Valley. The backyard faced a park with hiking trails. The poor guy was limping, but showed no signs of pain.
The second time happened one year later in the Bronx. We lived near a beach. Fenway’s fine now. He got the lyme disease vaccination and he never has to worry again. But Fenway doesn’t like grass anymore.
I still didn’t recognize what a tick looked like back then. Pictures at the veterinarian’s office are helpful, but to a city person like myself, the bug world is divided: There are cockroaches and there are the other insects.
Now living in a more wooded area with deer, wild turkeys and bears, I finally learned what ticks look like; sort of like miniscule leaping spiders. Fenway kept bringing in these strange looking things. I thought they were seed at first.
He wanted to eat them. I would pick them up, notice dangling legs and press hard to find blood spurting out. They were dog ticks and they carry diseases: lyme and ehrlichiosis, to name two.
Tick Advice: Too Much of It
On a recent Saturday night, after the vet was closed, I noticed a black spot on my Happy’s neck.
She is a tri color seven-and-a-half-year-old Beagle. Fortunately, the area was the white part of her, so the blood sucker could be easily seen.
I put on my glasses to look up close at the critter embedded in my girl. While Happy was complaining, I realized the petite vampire attached itself to her jugular. In the past when the little beasts were on the surface, I’ve taken the tiny guys off and they bite with a fury. This time the circumstances were different. I didn’t know how to remove it safely. I couldn’t even take her anywhere because my car was not working.
I made frantic calls to neighbors.
One told me to put rubbing alcohol on the tick to make it fall off. As I doused my Happy’s neck and she howled, it appeared that the tick was getting larger, digging in for battle. Another suggested I use a lighter to burn the tiny nightmare off my baby girl’s body.
As I stood there in horror and decided against using flame, the tick looked even bigger with dangly limbs. I’ve been told to use tweezers to remove a tick. But because I’ve been warned to make sure to get the head too, I walked around the neighborhood with three of the dogs looking for help. I left the Wheaten Terrier home. He was 15-years-old and could barely walk.
The guy across the street suggested I take her immediately to the vet, which was closed, and he didn't offer me a ride anyway.
Another wasn’t home. I looked down at poor Happy. At this point, she was enjoying the attention. She jumped up to lick my face.
The final house I went to was where Fenway’s girlfriend lives, a very feminine looking Pug with long eyelashes. As I rang the doorbell, I looked down at Happy to what appeared to be a growth on her neck.
The Pug's mommy answered the door. As the lady canine lover gave Happy a pat, she very sweetly explained about the four times she had suffered lyme disease. In a matter of seconds she pulled the monster from my girl’s neck, head and all.
I looked at the offender as it seemed to condense into this shy little bug that can usually only be seen with a magnifying glass.
Tick Removal: The Final Word
After the excitement of the weekend’s tick adventure, I was able to reach Happy’s veterinarian at the South Salem Animal Hospital here in the community named the same.
Dr. Jeffrey Hubsher advised that if this should happen again to, “get the tick off!"
"Do not upset the tick: don't burn it or smother it or put alcohol on it," he said.
If you upset the tick, it could regurgitate into your pet through the mouth parts and hasten a tick-borne disease.
"Grasp the tick between your fingers, twisting and pulling to get it off. If you cannot grab it with your fingers, use a tweezer and grasp it by the head part (not the body) and twist and pull. If the mouth part breaks off and you don't get the whole tick, do no worry. It will eventually work its way out in most of the cases. Although a tick bite can cause a localized infection, most do not.”