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Myths and Facts about Ticks
M Duffy Jones, DVM posted:
Anyone who has ever found a tick on their pet (or on themselves) knows that these creatures can be really bothersome. They burrow into the skin of other creatures and actually feed and live on their blood. The CDC reports that ticks are found in every US state and that the number of tick-borne diseases is currently on the rise. To dispel some of the mystery, here are a few commonly-held myths about ticks and the facts that we have to debunk them.

Myth # 1: Ticks are insects.

Ticks are actually parasites that belong to the arachnid family. An arachnid is classified as having eight legs, although the front legs of some species have converted to a sensory function. Ticks are joined in this class by other wonderful creatures such as spiders, scorpions, and mites.

Myth # 2: Ticks live in trees.

Many people think that if they live in an urban setting -- where there are few trees -- their pets are safe from ticks. Unfortunately, ticks are everywhere. Many are found living in grass. They sit at the end of blades of grass and cling to warm bodies as they pass by. Then they migrate upwards on their hosts, which is why they are usually found around the head and neck of a pet.

Myth # 3: Ticks are easy to kill in the environment.

Ticks are great survivors. They can live in some of the toughest environments. They will actually cease their own development in order to survive in harsh conditions. This is why environmental control of ticks can be very difficult.

Myth # 4: If you live in a cold environment, you do not have to worry about ticks.

As I said before, ticks can stop their own development and wait until environmental conditions are more favorable. They are also good at laying eggs in areas where they can survive, such as your house. This is why year-round tick protection is so important.

Myth # 5: If your pet gets a tick-borne disease, it will be easy to diagnose.

The tick-borne diseases that veterinarians deal with most often include Lyme disease, ehrlichia, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Each of these is very difficult to diagnose and symptoms may not appear until long after the tick is gone. It may take multiple blood tests to confirm a diagnosis.

So, if you were not worried about ticks before, you should be. Not only are they tough to kill and the source of some significant and hard-to-diagnose diseases. They are something your pet can pass on to you and other people they come in contact with. So remember to protect your pet from these nasty little parasites.

Was anyone surprised by the truth behind some of these myths? What bits of information have you heard about ticks and tick-borne diseases that have struck your curiosity? Share them with the Community.


William Draper, DVM, better known as "Dr. Will," is a well-known small animal practitioner in the Atlanta, GA area. He grew up in Inglewood,...More

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