Ticks are tiny, dangerous creatures whose entire existence depends upon attaching to living, breathing beings—like your dog, cat or family—and consuming a blood meal. Sounds very vampirish, doesn’t it? Perhaps this is why these little creatures are surrounded by so many giant myths—people tend to create and circulate false stories when they’re afraid to really understand and deal with the danger at hand. If you have had the displeasure of dealing with ticks, then you know: ticks aren’t creatures you can easily brush off. The more you know, the easier it will be to understand why you’ll want to prevent ticks in the first place.
Myth #1: All ticks are the same.
There are approximately 899 different species of ticks in the world. Ticks are divided into two distinct groups—hard ticks and soft ticks. Hard ticks have a hard shield behind the mouthparts and are shaped like a flat seed. Soft ticks lack a hard shell and are shaped like a raisin, although these can be easily confused with fully fed adult female hard ticks, which also look like a fat gray raisin. Although all ticks pose a problem, hard ticks are the types of ticks that you, your fur friends and family are likely to encounter. The Brown Dog Tick, which is found in South Africa as well as worldwide, along with the Yellow Dog Tick, are the most important tick species in South Africa when it comes to disease transmission and pose a severe threat once they latch on and start feeding.
Myth #2: Ticks can’t survive indoors for long periods.
The Brown Dog Tick, sometimes referred to as the kennel tick, thrives inside homes and buildings. The Brown Dog Tick’s life cycle is unlike that of all other ticks because it can survive and develop inside homes. This means the Brown Dog Tick can be present and active in colder climates although it prefers warm climates. The Brown Dog Tick is primarily found inside kennels or homes with dogs. This tick hides in cracks, behind radiators, under rugs and furniture, and on draperies and walls. After feeding, a female Brown Dog Tick can lay as many as 4,000 eggs.
Myth #3: Ticks only transmit Biliary (Tick Fever).
The list of tick-borne diseases is extensive. In addition to Biliary (babesiosis), ticks can carry and transmit Anaplasmosis, Ehrlichiosis, Canine Bartonellosis, Hemotrophic mycoplasmosis among other diseases. There may be more than 100 known tick-borne infections. The risk for infection is not restricted to dogs and cats—you and your family may be at risk, too. The initial signs and symptoms of tick- borne diseases can be similar for animals and humans, alike—lethargy, fever, loss of appetite, joint pain, weakness—and these diseases can escalate and quickly become more serious. This is why it’s essential to protect your dog, cat family and yourself from ticks. It takes some feeding time for a tick to transmit a disease, perhaps up to 48 hours for an infected tick to transmit Biliary, for example. Ticks can transmit more than one disease during one feeding over several days.
Myth #4: If you can’t see a tick, it’s not a problem.
Some ticks are so tiny that they are often not seen. Although they always pose a big problem, the problem gets even bigger when the tick is gone. After feeding and mating, adult female ticks drop from their host and lay eggs. Different species of ticks lay different numbers of eggs, but that number is typically in the thousands. The eggs will later on develop into larvae and nymphs, before molting into adult ticks.
Myth #5: Ticks fall out of trees and onto pets.
Ticks cannot run or jump, but they don’t randomly fall onto a host. Ticks live in damp, shaded areas. They tend to hang out on tall grasses and low foliage waiting for a host to walk by. When they sense the vibration, warmth and carbon dioxide from a host, they extend their two front legs to latch onto the passing animal. This often happens when an animal or person brushes by tall grasses, low-lying leaves, and brush. Once a tick attaches to a host, it finds a preferred place to feed and can often consume an entire blood meal without being noticed.
Myth #6: Ticks are only a warm weather problem.
Ticks thrive all year long. When the temperature drops and ticks are outside, they burrow underground, into sheds, under decks and in the foundations of homes to hibernate. As soon as the temperature rises above freezing, they come out of hibernation in search of a meal. Consider how likely you are to take your dog to the park on a warm winter day and then remember that you and your dog are not the only creatures that want to play outside when it’s warm—ticks make their way above, too. On the flip side, ticks living inside the home, such as the Brown Dog Tick mentioned earlier, stay active indoors, 24/7, 365 days a year.
Myth #7: Indoor pets do not need tick prevention.
Like all the other myths listed here, this is simply not true. Ticks can easily attach to an indoor pet, such as a cat. Although ticks tend to attach and immediately begin to consume a meal, they can also hitch a ride indoors on clothing or muddy shoes. Once a tick gets inside your home, it will actively search for a host. The tick’s survival depends upon consuming a blood meal.
So what can you do to batten down the hatches against ticks? You can give effective treatments that keep ticks from becoming fixtures on your pet. Talk to your veterinarian about the way Bravecto® offers long-lasting protection against ticks. When a tick attempts to consume a blood meal on an animal protected by Bravecto®, the tick dies when it feeds on blood. This means that the chance of your dog or cat contracting a tick-borne disease is significantly reduced. You can stay ahead of these pesky parasites, by proactively protecting your furry friends.