Blood Sucking Parasites Part 2 Ticks Title

Photo Credit: izarbeltza via Flickr

In the U.S. there are over 90 types of tick – 899 species worldwide. Ticks are arachnids just like spiders and scorpions. Ticks can not fly or jump. They feed by burying their head inside the skin of a host and gorging on the blood. While most ticks can be seen by the naked eye, they may only be the size of pinhead before they begin to feed. A tick will grow and grow as it fills itself with its host’s blood.

Just a Little Tickle?

Ticks on Finger

From left to right: The blacklegged tick tickle, ticket, adult female and adult male. Photo Credit: Fairfax County via Flickr

The life cycle of a tick has 4 phases: the egg, the 6-legged nymph, the 8-legged nymph, and the adult. Ticks lay their eggs on the ground in grassy areas. A single female can deposit anywhere from 3,000 to 6,000 eggs. Many of these eggs will be eaten by other creatures.

When the egg hatches, the tick is now a in the larve stage or the 6-legged nymph. At this stage the tick is referred to as a “tickle.” The tickle will find its first host by reaching out its front pair of legs which can sense things like a change in carbon dioxide levels, which signify the presence of a mammal host. It will attach to its host’s fur or clothing and have its first meal.

After that first meal it will fall to the ground and molt into the 8-legged nymph. The tick at this stage is called a “ticket.” Once again the tick will go searching for a host using it’s front pair of legs. It will feed again and molt again.

Finally the tick will be an adult. It will go in search of its third and final meal. Once it has had its fill, the tick will mate. Adult male ticks will die shortly after mating. Adult female ticks will fall to the ground to lay their eggs and shortly thereafter, they too will die. The whole life cycle of the tick can be as short as 2 months and as long as 2 years or more depending on the type of tick.

Why A Tick On May Tick You Off

Mama Bobcat - A Series

Ticks can pick up Cytauxzoonosis from feeding on bobcats.
Photo Credit: Linda Tanner via Flickr

A cat can end up with ticks from a variety of sources. If the cat is an outdoor cat, it can pick up ticks from walking through grassy, wooded, or brush filled areas where ticks live. Those areas could be in your own back yard. Even if a cat is kept indoors it is still possible for them to get ticks. Ticks can be transferred from another animal that does go out side, a visiting animal, or even from a human who has been frolicking outdoors.

Though ticks can attach anywhere on a cat’s body ticks like to attach to the head, neck, ears, or feet. Most of the time the cat will have no discomfort because of the tick. You may only know that your cat has a tick because you came across it when interacting with your cat.

Unlike fleas, the threat of having a tick infestation in your house is pretty slim. However, that doesn’t mean that ticks don’t pose a threat to you or your cat. If your cat happens to be a host too many ticks at one time, the blood loss could result in anemia. Ticks can also cause hypersensitivity in cats as well as impact their immune, lymphatic, and nervous systems.

Since ticks feed off of multiple hosts within their life time, they are also known for spreading some serious diseases to both animals and humans. For cats one of the most deadly diseases ticks carry is called Cytauxzoonosis. This is a rapidly progressing disease that can kill a cat in a matter of weeks. Cytauxzoonosis is spread from bob cats and there is no known cure. Other diseases that ticks carry include Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Babesia, and Mycoplasma. Many of these diseases can be transmitted to from the tick to humans as well.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Getting Rid of Ticks

DO’s
removing a tick

Image Credit: Stephanie Sicore via Flickr

DO use the proper procedure for removing a tick:

  • Using tweezers, grab the tick as close to the skin as possible.
  • Pull slowly and gently backwards from the skin until the tick is removed.
  • Use a disinfectant on the wound.

DO wear gloves when removing a tick. You don’t want to take the chance of infecting yourself with any of the diseases the tick may carry.

DO remove the tick immediately. The longer the tick stays attached, the higher the risk of a disease being transmitted to your cat.

DO put the tick that has been removed in a small jar of rubbing alcohol. This will kill the tick and allow you to keep the specimen if your cat should fall ill.

DO call your veterinarian if your cat seems to be ill or has an infection.

DO ask your veterinarian for options to prevent your cat from getting ticks. Many flea treatments will also protect from ticks.

DO keep your yard free of tall grass, weeds, and other tick habitats. This will reduce the chances of ticks being picked up by your pets in your own back yard.

DON’Ts

DON’T use home remedies like applying petroleum jelly or grease to the area to remove the tick. These remedies don’t work and they may cause the tick to salivate and increase risk of disease being transmitted.

DON’T throw the tick away in the trash can or try to flush it down the toilet. Ticks tend to survive being tossed or flushed and can reattach to your pet, you, or one of your family members.

DON’T twist the tick when pulling it out. This could cause the tick’s mouth parts to break off and remain lodged in your pets skin. These mouth parts could cause infection.

DON’T squeeze the tick’s body while removing the tick. Squeezing the tick could cause the tick to regurgitate some of it’s body’s contents back into your cat’s blood stream. This could include the diseases it carries.

Have you ever needed to remove a tick from your kitty?

The Blood Sucking Parasites Series

Part 1: Fleas

Part 2: Ticks

Part 3: Heartworms

Sources & Digging Deeper

Understanding the Tick Life Cycle – PetMD

Life Cycle of Hard Ticks that Spread Disease – CDC

Ticks – ASPCA

10 Ways to Stop Ticks from Biting Your Cat– PetMD

Ticks and Your Cat – Veterinary at Cornell University