It’s tick season in the Wasatch Back and with the wet spring, they’re plentiful. Neighborhood social media sites are rife with photos of people finding them on their bodies after gardening, lawn mowing, and hiking. Outdoor pets are especially susceptible to ticks latching on and like humans, they can get very sick from diseases carried by the parasite.
Being tick aware and removing them before they have started to feed will keep you and your pets healthy from tick related diseases.
According to Summit County Health Department Nursing Director, Carolyn Rose, prevention includes wearing long sleeves and pants tucked into socks when in the outdoors. She says after coming inside, remove all your clothes and wash them immediately. A full body check is important because they gravitate to warm areas like underarms, hairline and the groin. They can be very tiny at first but will get larger as they feed on their host.
Rose says there are folk lore remedies like using a hot match head to remove the head of the tick. That has been discounted by experts saying that may cause the tick to burrow further into its host.
“Pair of tweezers. You have to gently pull on them on the back of the head and pull them out backwards. So, you don’t just pluck them off. You actually pull them off, so you get their feeding parts out of your skin.”
The tick that carries Lyme’s disease is a black legged tick and feeds off the white tail deer found in the northeast and north west.
“We have some of those ticks out here but most of our ticks are a wood tick or a brown dog tick. So far, it hasn’t been proven that the tick has migrated this far. There have been black legged ticks found in Utah, not in Summit County to my knowledge.”
A tick bite often looks like a reddish target on the skin and should be treated immediately with antibiotics. Symptoms are flu like.
Doctor Carl Prior from the Park City Animal Clinic says not all ticks have disease but still thinks they should be avoided. He says people should thoroughly inspect their pets after going into tick habitat such as sage or mountain lands.
“Whenever we’re using a chemical or a product, you have to really balance out the benefit of the product verses the risk of the product. And if I had a dog that was going up into the mountain’s certain times of the year, I would consider the benefit of the product outweighing the down-side of the product.”
Depending on the tick, there’s a small percentage of them that carry disease.
“Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Lyme Disease, Tick Paralysis, Erlichia, Rickettsia. So, there are several things that ticks can transmit. And different ticks transmit different diseases at different rates. We don’t have very many of these ticks in Utah that carries Lyme Disease.”
Prior says symptoms from tick disease are not easily identified by specific symptoms until blood tests are taken.
“It would be an uncomfortable dog. It would be a sick dog. And we would do exams. We would do some blood work. And then we could run a specific test to check for diseases transmitted by ticks.”Prior says ticks have different life cycles.
“They need to feed in order to go to their next stage and to lay their eggs. They can be dormant for decades.
"A tick can survive for 10 to 20 years. Certain ticks can. Some ticks will pick one host and stay on them for several weeks and go through the same process on the same host. Other ticks will jump on, feed on some blood, then they jump off.”
Prior says it’s extremely important to do a tick check on yourself and your pets. They can take hours to days on the host before they start to feed so getting them off quickly is the way to avoid getting sick. You can find images of ticks commonly found in the Intermountain West, posted with this story on KPCW.org