Marin Independent Journal

Protect your pets from the dreaded tick

- By Lisa Bloch Lisa Bloch is the marketing and communicat­ions director at Marin Humane, which contribute­s Tails of Marin articles and welcomes animal-related questions about the people and animals in our community. Go to marinhuman­, find us on social

As someone who works in animal welfare, I try not to actively dislike any creature. After all, you can find redeeming qualities in almost all of them. However, I'm having a hard time coming up with something nice about ticks.

These insects are common in Marin and even more so now that we've had so much rain. According to the Bay Area Lyme Foundation, Marin County has some of the highest tick infection rates in California, likely due to all its open space and wetlands.

The little buggers love the moist ground and air, especially when an unsuspecti­ng person and their dog walks through their habitat. They'll easily hitch a ride onto fur or clothing and quickly burrow in for blood.

Ticks secrete saliva that produces an anesthetic effect at the site of the bite, which is why we often don't know we've been bitten by a tick until sometime later. The saliva contains an anti-clotting agent to keep the blood flowing, and acts like cement, helping to anchor the tick in place and make it harder for you to remove. Pretty amazing engineerin­g, if you can ignore the fact that they can carry the bacteria that causes diseases such as Lyme.

With so much open space and awesome trails, many in Marin spend a lot of time outside walking and hiking, especially with dogs. And while Lyme disease isn't as common in dogs as it is in humans, dogs can still get sick.

That's why it's so important to check your dog thoroughly for ticks after every outing. Moreover, the sooner you remove the tick, the better. It takes at least 24 hours for a tick to transmit an infection. The less time a tick feeds on your pet, the less risk of infection (same is true for us humans).

To lessen the chances of coming home with ticks, wear light-colored clothing so they can be spotted easily. Know where ticks are found and use caution when walking through tall grasses. Apply a bug repellant and perform a

tick check as soon as you get home. If your dog has thick or long fur, it's especially important to part the fur as you check them thoroughly.

To remove a tick, shield your fingers with a tissue, paper towel or rubber gloves. Then, using finetipped tweezers, grasp the

tick as close to the skin surface as possible and pull upward with steady, even pressure.

Don't twist, “unscrew” or jerk the tick; this may cause the parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the leftover tick parts (eww) with tweezers. Don't squeeze, crush or puncture the tick's body. This can squeeze tick fluids, which may contain infectious organisms, into the bloodstrea­m.

Don't use petroleum jelly, hot matches or alcohol to remove a tick. This can make matters worse by irritating the tick and provoking it to release additional saliva or regurgitat­e its gut contents

(also eww), increasing the chances of infection transmitta­l.

Thoroughly disinfect the bite site after removing the tick and wash your hands with soap and water.

Of course, the real key in protecting our pets is prevention. Having your pets on flea and tick medication is extremely important. There are myriad options but personally, I've found the oral treatments work best.

Some even protect your pet for three months with one dose.

Wishing you and your pets a tick-free spring.

 ?? PHOTO BY LISA BLOCH ?? It's important to check your dogs thoroughly for ticks.
PHOTO BY LISA BLOCH It's important to check your dogs thoroughly for ticks.

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