In the Benelux, the most important ticks are tick remover for dogs with a hard dorsal shell (Ixodidae). Ixodes Ricinus is the most common member. In southern Belgium, a tick originating from southern Europe can also be observed: Dermacentor reticularis. In addition, some ticks not adapted to our climates are reported during trips to Mediterranean countries and can survive in our homes or kennels (Rhipicephalus sanguineous). These ticks can only feed on your blood or that of your animal.
The tick cycles
The tick’s development cycle is complex with different blood meals often taken on different hosts. Ixodes Ricinus, for example, is a tick with 3 hosts: the larvae and nymphs parasitize lizards, birds, or rodents while the adult stage is found in dogs and other domestic animals or wild mammals. The size of this tick varies between 3 and 11mm long depending on whether it is full of blood or not. The egg-laden female drops from its host to lay on the ground between 100 and 1000 eggs at one time.
She won’t survive it! The larvae (6 legs) hatch after 2 to 36 weeks depending on the ambient temperature and bite a first host from which they fall after 2 to 12 days. They molt and become nymphs (8 legs) whose shell hardens. The nymphs find a second host on which they feed for 3 to 10 days and then drop to the ground to turn into adult ticks and reproduce. The minimum tick cycle length is 20 weeks but it can reach 2 to 4 years! Without feeding, a larva can survive 1 year, a nymph 2 years, and an adult ticks up to 27 months.
The tick: vector of disease
By clinging to the skin, the tick causes itching and irritation, and sometimes even allergic reactions. Few parasites carry as many viral and bacterial diseases as ticks. In the Benelux, Lyme disease (Borreliosis) is the most important condition transmitted by ticks. This disease is caused by a spirochete bacterium called: “Borrelia burgdorferi”. In Holland, the prevalence of infection with this bacterium in ticks was >2.4% in nymphs and 14.3% in adult ticks.
Lyme disease is especially dangerous for humans, but it can sometimes affect dogs. The symptoms in this one are mainly fever, lameness, and kidney, heart, or liver damage. A positive serology (presence of antibodies in the blood) does not mean that the animal is sick but most often indicates a previous contact without clinical consequence.
In the Mediterranean regions, other dangerous diseases for dogs can also be transmitted by ticks such as Rhipicephalus sanguineous and Dermacentor reticulatus. Babesiosis (Piroplasmosis) is caused by a single-celled parasite (Babesia Canis) whose transmission takes place less than 24 h after the attachment of the tick. This parasite destroys red blood cells and causes fever, lethargy, anorexia (the dog no longer eats), brown-colored urine, jaundice, and, sometimes, rapid death.
Rhipicephalus is also responsible for ehrlichiosis and canine hepatosomatic.
How do you remove a tick attached to your body or that of your pet?
It is recommended to remove the tick by using a tick remover for cats or gripping it as close as possible to the skin with tick tweezers (on sale at veterinarians) or small curved tweezers. Do not pull but use a rotary movement avoiding separating the body from the head. The removal of the tick must be rapid to avoid it vomiting the spirochetes into the bloodstream.
Ticks are removed more easily if insecticides, alcohol, and acetone are used, and these products are left to act for a few minutes. However, these methods which anesthetize ticks have the disadvantage that they promote the regurgitation of their content (including Borrelia) into the host’s body. The puncture wound should then be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.
The treatment: To effectively treat our companions, it is necessary to consider the living environment of the animal: urban or rural, in Belgium or traveling to the south of Europe. It is recommended to treat the animal (adulticidal products) but also, when possible, its environment. For your companion it is necessary:
- Avoid places at risk (low vegetation, ferns… especially when it is hot and humid)
- To carefully inspect his coat after each walk in the countryside or the forest to eliminate ticks that have not yet settled or those that have just settled and have not yet been killed by the anti-tick product
- To use a good adulticide product that kills ticks quickly
- To use a repellent product (which removes ticks from the coat)
- Scrupulously respect the doses and intervals between applications
- Use the product best suited to the target species (cat, dog, etc.)
- To choose the product according to its effectiveness (repellent effect, duration of action, speed of action, etc.) and its ease of application (tablet, spray, spot on, necklace, etc.)
- To choose the product according to its harmlessness (absence of risks especially during application in cats)