Dog ticks, as most pet owners know, are annoying ectoparasites that feast on human and animal blood. If you are seeing ticks on your dog, do not hesitate in having it treated as soon as possible. This is because; ticks can be harmful to humans as well and can cause intense itching, secondary skin infections as well as some seriously fatal illnesses.
Let us answer the question ‘are dog ticks harmful to humans’?
How dangerous are ticks? How do they harm your dog?
Ticks attach themselves to their host’s body by inserting sharp mouthparts in their skin. Certain tick species, depending on where you live, are even known to secrete sticky saliva to help them adhere to their host’s bodies. Once attached, the dog ticks continue to harm your pet by deleting its blood. In small puppies and weaker older animals, anemia is not uncommon, especially in case of large and untreated infestations.
Some varieties of female ticks are even known to secrete a rare toxin in their host’s blood causing paralysis in the bitten animal. Moreover dog ticks are also known to cause chronic Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Fever as well as diseases like babesiosis in some hosts. Many dogs infected with the Lyme disease-causing bacteria are known to suffer from joint pain for years to come.
It is therefore very important to have your pets treated for ticks as soon as you sight them. If your dog has been bitten by a tick recently, and you notice lethargy, swelling in the joints as well as fever or change in the bark, have it checked immediately.. Lyme’s disease is treatable using antibiotics, provided you do so immediately.
Preventing ticks from biting your dog
Thankfully, some simple measures can prevent ticks from harming your pets. These are the steps:
- Avoid walking the dog out in grassy trails especially in hot, summer months. Inspect your dog from time to time for ticks, especially if you live in an area that is known to be populated with these parasites.
- Use vet approved tick control products-these include permethrin based sprays, powders and shampoos.
- Use a tick collar which can prevent ticks and fleas from harming your pet.
- Clear your yard of clutter as this harbors wild animals like raccoons etc that can bring ticks in your yard.
- Also cut and mow the grass regularly. This is an important preventive measure for keeping ticks away from your property. If needed, use organic food grade insecticides like Diatomaceous Earth powders or beneficial Nematode sprays to treat your yard. These are known to kill ticks and fleas without harming your pets.
Can humans be affected or harmed by dog ticks?
In absence of dogs and cats, ticks can attach themselves to humans. Many people, especially young babies and elderly people are known to be bitten by dog ticks and even suffering from Lyme disease due to this. Ticks can also irritate human skin, especially when people are allergic to the tick saliva protein. The bitten region of skin could develop blisters, bumps or rashes which may be itchy and inflamed; scratching the rashes could lead to secondary bacterial skin infections that often require antibiotic or steroidal skin creams for treatment.
It is important to realize that humans can be affected adversely by dog ticks. Rocky Mountain spotted fever, babesiosis and other diseases seen in tick-infested animals can also affect humans with far greater negative consequences. Elderly humans who become tick bite victims often suffer from lifelong joint pain and arthritis-like symptoms. Babies bitten by ticks can also develop angry looking Bull’s eye rash which is painful and itchy.
Tick Facts Humans should know
- You might not think much about the skin irritation caused by ticks-but humans need to be aware of the dangerous diseases caused by them.
- Tick control products can be used for ongoing tick prevention.
- Never pull off ticks from human’s or dog’s skin without following the correct steps for their removal (using tweezers). This will prevent you from leaving behind the tick mouthparts in the host’s skin.
- Adult ticks do not need frequent blood meals and can even live in your environment without feeding for over a year.
- Ticks can cause diseases and illnesses such as severe anemia, fatigue, flu-like symptoms, lameness and even joint issues in both humans and dogs.
- A fully grown tick will live on at least three different hosts in its lifetime.
- Unlike popular belief, ticks usually do not fall down from trees onto their hosts-they attach themselves to animals and humans when the latter are walking in grassy trails.
Dog ticks can and do bite humans in absence of their primary hosts. Dog tick bites on humans require immediate treatment such as pulling the tick out (using the correct methods) and immediately washing the bitten area with antibacterial soap. One must also keep an eye out for symptoms like fatigue, joint pain or fever and if they occur, must visit the doctor as soon as possible.