Ticks That Tick Me Off
I knew this would happen at some point. Maui suddenly had ticks. It could have been from the park, or our countless jog walks, but when I was giving him some well-deserved tummy rubs, I suddenly noticed tiny brown spots. I'm now sure how they all spread, but there are quite a lot of them. There must have been a few adults that stuck around and started laying eggs, and now they hatched and quickly matured.
Investigations come later. Maui needed a bath. I need to take them out ASAP as some tick bites can cause a nasty disease called rocky mountain spotted fever. It's not clear whether these ticks are the cause of this, but I'd rather not take risks. I took out my daughter's old baby tub, filled it with water and his pet shampoo, then made a considerable bubble bath. My aim right now is to soak Maui with soap, hopefully enough to kill the tick and potential flea larvae.
My problem is that ticks are incredibly resilient. Their skin can resist all kinds of things apart from actual chemical insecticides. Just soaping them won't work, you have to smother them, and even then, it may not work. The idea right now is to try and kill the smaller ones as they are more vulnerable, then pick the other ones out and kill them.
Maui enjoyed the soak as it was a particularly hot summer day. After the long bath, it's off to a towel dry and picking the ticks off one by one. I got my trusty pair of tweezers and a small container containing neem oil to dump them in. I wanted to use a natural pesticide to keep bugs off my sweet peppers, and I happened to have some left with me. I had to do it while Maui's hair was slightly wet because it's easier to part his thick fur.
Curiously, I saw one that was half engorged and felt a bit sadistic. I took the shock collar, aligned one of the prongs on the tick, and unleashed what might as well be lighting for them. Well, I didn't expect it to work, but I did think I killed the tiny little terror because when I picked it up, it didn't even wiggle its legs.
The pooch seemed to enjoy being groomed. He laid down and even fell asleep as I looked into every nook and cranny of his body to make sure I don't miss one. After a back-breaking tick removal session, I took out his bed from his crate and laid it out in baking, nay, frying sun to keep any tick and flea eggs from hatching, preventing an unwanted tick and flea infestation.
Picking them off is just half the battle. Preventing ticks is the main affair, so I sat down on my computer and began looking for cheap and practical ways to prevent them from appearing again. Preferably one I can place on Maui.
The first thing I saw was essential oils. Though they get a bad rep sometimes, I did still try neem oil mixed with a few cups of water, and it helped keep the weevils off. Citronella oil was one of the top contenders alongside rose geranium oil and eucalyptus oil. Citronella is out of the question as Maui absolutely hates the smell. Eucalyptus oil is quite expensive because of my location, so rose geranium oil and neem oil are the ones left as my natural repellent.
Of course, I won't leave it at that. I'll try both the natural and the artificial approaches. Fipronil drops and sprays apparently cause ticks to detach and run for dear life. It's relatively non-toxic unless Maui ingests a good amount and some formulations can be used on dogs and cats as early as 8 weeks and older.
Now that I have my weapons to wage war with, I need to know where the first bullet was figuratively fired. I gave Maui a thorough bath after our park visit, and that's more than enough to wash off any ticks. An adult tick may have fallen on Maui's bed and laid eggs there, so that's one thing I'm going to deal with.
One mystery is why there are a lot of adults already on him. It's only been a week since we came from the park and I don't think ticks grow into adult size in just a week. My current hypothesis is that Maui went somewhere that had a lot of ticks and they latched on him by the tens. I went out into the garden to check if we have ticks somewhere. The problem is it's very hard to see them on grass and walls. I had to narrow down my search to where Maui would normally hang out.
After a good hour of searching and tending to the farm garden while I'm there, I found some crawling on our concrete fence. They were trying to get to the small holes, so I took what little neem oil I had left and mixed it with water. I sprayed the walls and to my horror, there were more of them than I thought. They went crawling out, either irritated by the oil or just stimulated somehow. Where the heck did they all come from?
The next day on our daily walks, I went out to the street to investigate. There I saw my veterinarian neighbor had had a quick chat about ticks. I learned a couple of things, such as how its peak tick season and tick infestations are quite common around these times. Another is that we only have the species called the brown dog tick, which doesn't cause rocky mountain fever or Lyme disease but can still bite you and cause persistent swelling. Home remedies like petroleum jelly and lemon juice are marginally ineffective, and ticks on dogs only take about 5-7 days of feeding before they lay eggs and die. One female tick can lay eggs, giving birth to hundreds of ticks.
Although it's nice to hear that a few drops of oil, geranium or neem, is enough to repel ticks. My neighbor suggested I use fipronil drops instead as it gets the job done, and use it to spray on the walls.
Still, ticks don't just appear in my yard like that, unless they spawn from the raw firmament like the nasty little buggers they are, so I decided to pay my two neighbors a visit. Lo and behold, I found the culprit. When I knocked on one of them, the dog answered and I already saw little gray things on the poor dog's head, which are engorged adult ticks. It turns out the owner was gone for a month and it's just the housekeeper there, and she only visits to feed the animals and stay in the house for a few hours. The poor dog likely got ticks a week or two ago, and the caretaker could not properly handle the problem. I took Maui home and went back to investigate and it turns out, some of the ticks were on their wooden fence, which then slowly made their way into the gaps in our wall, likely attracted to Maui's activity.
I offered to help the dog get rid of the fleas because I knew my neighbor well and I'll buy tick treatment and tick repellents soon. So, it was off to the pet stores to find me some natural and artificial treatments.
The day after, I went to the garden to spray some of the neem oil and water mix on the walls. I don't see the ticks anymore, but if it helps repel them, all the better. I then took the fipronil spray with me and went to the neighbors. "Jojo" was happy to see me as if the pooch knew I was going to provide some relief.
With rubber gloves on, I first petted Jojo to make sure I don't surprise him. The infestation was moderately bad and I could already see some skin irritation. My only hope is that Jojo doesn't get an allergic reaction from the spray.
As per the instructions on the bottle, I parted Jojo's short fur and sprayed it evenly, trying to coat as big of an area as I can. It was a relatively quick process and I sprayed close on the head while covering his eyes. Supposedly, it works in 4-8 hours, but to my surprise, and mild horror, ticks started crawling out of his fur. It may be the ticks that haven't cemented themselves in, which are now panicking. Some have fallen off, and Jojo began scratching himself hard. We had to keep him from licking his own fur, but thankfully the caretaker knew where the cone collar was and placed it on him.
I then went to the fence closest to our wall and practically emptied my spray bottle of neem oil and "furnished" the wood with it. The caretaker said they had some farm-grade insecticide called malathion but she had to ask the homeowner how to properly use it. I've heard of that insecticide before, and if it works, then, by all means, bombard the fences.
Our vet neighbor popped his head in, curious about the happenings, and saw the dog. He approved of the method I used and also suggested using a product called Ivermectin. It's injected into the dog and works better because it mixes in with the blood, which is then ingested by the tick. The chemical then destroys the tick and flea's nervous system, killing them nearly instantly. Bonus is that it also kills other parasites that could be feeding on
It's harmless to the dog, but the only caveat is it's pricy.
This was a step in the right direction. There might be a chance that there are infected ticks on that dog that could be transferred to us or Maui. The chances of tick-borne disease are quite low, but how many ticks there are in their yard right now, that probability increases.
I have to do a follow-up at some point, our vet says to respray in 2 weeks, to make sure we get rid of any stragglers that survive. I also need to check on Maui to make sure not a single tick makes it to the egg-laying stage.
Life is filled with things that bother me, downright tick me off, but that's just the way life is, and like a whetstone, it keeps me sharp. Hopefully, Maui appreciates what I'm doing, and keeps out bond strong.