Hard Shell Ticks
Hard Shell Ticks are named Ixodidae and possess the hard outer covering, or shells, made of chitin. There are many more hard shell ticks than the soft shell variety. The American Dog Tick is called Dermacentor Variabilis and is the most well-known of the North American hard ticks. The American Dog Tick lives in the entire east of the United States. The Brown Dog Tick is called the Rhipicephalus Sanguineus and is a serious threat to kennels in any area of the United States. Hard ticks embed themselves underneath the skin of a host for long periods of time. Hard, or Ixodid ticks, have three hosts, one for each stage of the life cycle (larvae, nymph and adult), but in some species this has been reduced to just one. Hard ticks need several days to feed, and once the female is engorged she drops from the host to lay many thousands of eggs. Studies have shown that Hard ticks have amazing longevity and have been observed to live for many years and through long periods of starvation.
Soft Shell Ticks
Soft Shell Ticks are named Argasidae and have a soft outer covering, or shells. There are fewer soft shell ticks than the hard shell variety. The one most well known soft shell tick is the Otobius Megnini also known as the Spinose Ear Tick. The Spinose Ear tick is found in the Southwest of the United States and is so called because it attaches itself and feeds on ears. Soft ticks typically live in crevices and emerge briefly to feed - the head of Argasids cannot be seen. Soft, or Argasid ticks, only feed intermittently and do not remain attached to their hosts. They may feed many times over their lifetime on a number of different hosts and will often lay only a few hundred eggs.
Ticks - Blood Suckers
Ticks feed by sucking the blood of their hosts (our dogs). They have a device in their mouth which allows them to anchor themselves firmly in place while sucking blood. Forcefully pulling a tick out from under the skin can leave the head behind.
Quick removal of ticks will help prevent diseases, such as Lyme disease, because the tick must remain attached to the dog’s body for at least one day before the disease can be transmitted. Care must be taken to remove a tick because forcefully pulling a tick out from under the skin often leaves the head behind. Careless squeezing of the tick may also force any bacteria from the tick into the bloodstream. The application of irritants such as lighted cigarettes, matches, alcohol, nail polish, or vaseline can also have the same effect. The recommended process to remove a tick is as follows:
- Do not use your fingers to remove a tick
- You can use tweezers but preferably use special tick removal instruments
- Grasp the tick as near to the skin as possible
- Pull firmly, steadily and straight - no jerking or twisting movements
- To kill the tick place it in alcohol
- Save the tick for identification
- Clean the bite wound with an antibiotic ointment
After removing a tick there may be some swelling, due to the tick's toxic saliva, which can take up to one week to disappear. In some instances permanent scarring may also occur.
The Anatomy of Ticks
Young Ticks have three pairs of legs the adult tick has four pairs of legs. They are wingless and so they crawl but cannot fly. Ticks possess a sensory pit called Haller's organ situated on the first tarsus (toe). This structure senses odor, heat and humidity. Haller's organ enables ticks to locate their food source.
The Habitat of Ticks
Ticks are at their most prevalent in the Spring. They climb upon tall grass and when they sense an animal is close by (by use of the Haller's organ, they crawl on. They will often drop off of the host when full, but the feeding process may take several days.
The Life Cycle of Ticks
Understanding the life-cycle is important so that strategies for treatment and prevention can be designed and implemented. All Ticks have four stages to their Life Cycle:
- Egg - Eggs are laid on the ground until they hatch into larvae
- Larvae (seed tick) - sense an animal, its first host, and attaches itself to begin feeding and when full they fall to the ground. The larvae then 'molts' into the next stage
- Nymph - it senses an animal, its second host, and attaches itself to begin feeding. When full they fall to the ground. The Nymph then 'molts' into the final adult stage of its life cycle
- Adult - attaches itself to its third host begins feeding when full they fall to the ground. The male ticks then die. The female ticks lay eggs in the Spring