Ticks are eight-legged, hard-shelled parasites that burrow into the skin and feed on blood. They are not true insects. All true insects have six legs. Ticks are very hardy and stubborn parasites, capable of fasting for long periods and withstanding extremes in weather and climate. In some respects, they are more dangerous than either the flea or louse. And they are not easily eradicated from buildings.

A female tick may deposit as many as 5,000 eggs. The eggs are laid on the ground in some sheltered spot. After laying the eggs, the female dies. Three weeks to six months later, depending upon the conditions, the larvae or seed-ticks make their appearance. These seed-ticks have six legs. When the temperature and humidity are favorable, the seed-ticks begin their search for an intermediate host. The intermediate hosts are the meadow mouse and other small rodents. When ready to find a host, the seed-tick moves up from the ground, climbing on blades of grass, brush, weeds or other handy vegetation. The seed-tick works its way to the top of the vegetation. Here, perched and ready for action, the seed-tick awaits its prey. When a meadow mouse or other rodent comes along and brushes up against the vegetation with the seed-tick, the transfer is made.

When the temperature and humidity conditions are not right, the seed-tick will climb down from the vegetation and become dormant. She will become active only when the conditions are favorable.

After the seed-tick fastens onto its intermediate host, it digs in tightly and gorges on blood. The seed-tick and adult tick do this by puncturing the skin with the mouth and fastening into the opening made by the bite. Securely anchored, the seed-tick feeds on the intermediate host for 3 to 5 days. After it is gorged, the seed-tick falls to the ground.

Back on the ground again, the seed-tick undergoes a molt and changes into an eight-legged tick known as a nymph. The nymph climbs up on vegetation when the conditions are right and fastens onto a small rodent for 3 to 10 days. Again, gorged to sluggishness, the nymph falls to the ground and eventually molts into an eight-legged adult tick. The adult tick repeats the tactics of the seed-tick and nymph and climbs up on vegetation to await a victim—this time a dog, human being or other animal. You can see that the tick has a more elaborate life cycle than either the flea or louse.

Dogs infested with ticks suffer in a variety of ways. Since ticks gorge on blood, anemia is often the result of a tick infestation. Some ticks inject a toxin that affects the dog's neuromuscular system. Also, infections or abscesses can form at the site of the puncture made by the tick. But, as we mentioned before, it is the tick's ability to carry and transmit disease organisms that make it a very dangerous pest. While any species of tick will fasten onto a dog, it is the American dog tick and the brown dog tick that are the most widely distributed of the group.

Control of ticks

If just a few ticks are dug into your dog, you can remove them by pulling them out with tweezers. Don't try to pull them out with your fingers. This is risky for two reasons: 1) since ticks burrow in very tightly, you may break off the tick's body, and 2) the tick may be a carrier of Rocky Mountain spotted fever or tularemia. Use a pair of tweezers that have wide blunt ends; not the sharp pointed type. Work carefully and be sure to get all of the tick out of the dog's skin. If the head is left in, it may later cause infection. Ticks can also be loosened by wetting them with vinegar, alcohol or acetone (nail-polish remover).

When your dog is heavily infested with ticks, he will have to be dipped. Use the same dipping technique as for fleas and lice. But remember that ticks are very tough and you may have to repeat the dip once or twice before killing all of the ticks.

I£ you live in an area that is heavily infested with ticks, you will be wise to check the dog every time you take him out. This is especially true if you go into a woods or section with brush and weeds. Be sure to examine between the dog's toes, behind the ears and the root of the tail. These are favorite spots for ticks to fasten. Also, the chest. The dog usually brushes against vegetation with his chest and ticks are sure to get a hold here.

As with fleas and lice, eradicating ticks from the dog's body is only part of the battle. You've got to keep them out of the doghouse and your house. Above all, you've got to keep breaking up the life cycle. Spray the doghouse, working the spray into the cracks and corners. Next, go after the intermediate hosts, the field mice and other rodents. Keep them away from your house and the kennel. Maybe a cat, one that is a good mouser, will be of help. Cut down tall shrubbery, weeds and grass around the property. In short, make life impossible for ticks.

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