Do you let your dog or cat lie on your bed, perhaps even sleeping with you all night? Cuddling with ‘fur babies’ is a popular trend among pet owners. Some say they’d rather snuggle up to their pups than their snoring spouses. (Seems like there’s definitely another post begging to be written there.) This post, however, is about what else you might be sleeping with if you’re sleeping with your pets. The answer: Ticks!
If you immediately disregarded the possibility because you have “indoor pets,” you’re not exactly in the clear yet. Do you take your dog outside for walks? Do you ever walk in grass? If so, there is a distinct chance that your dog has ticks. If you sleep with your dog, then you’re sleeping with these oft-disease-ridden, creepy, crawly, dangerous arachnids, too!
Important stuff to know about ticks
You likely noticed the mention of arachnids there. Many people think ticks are insects but they’re not. They’re scientifically classified with spiders, scorpions and mites, which are all arachnids. (I wish you could see how fast I’m typing right now because this post is creeping me out!) There are a lot of myths associated with ticks and Lyme disease. The following list will hopefully debunk some for you:
- They don’t typically fall out of trees onto your head. If you get one on your head, it crawled there.
- Ticks exhibit behavior called “questing.” This basically means they hang out on the tips of grass blades/plants with their front legs extended in mid-air, so they can latch onto the nearest victim.
- It is not impossible to get a tick bite during winter. While they generally remain inactive in freezing temperatures, one warm day is all it takes to make them hungry for blood!
- It’s completely false that a tick has to be attached for more than 12 hours to transmit Lyme disease. Anyone telling you this is misguided, even if he or she is a licensed medical professional.
- You can have Lyme disease without ever having a bulls-eye rash. In fact, you can have the disease without ever having a rash at all.
Does the doctor examining you specialize in infectious diseases with a special focus on Lyme disease? If not, then chances are you know as much or more than he or she does about the topic. Ticks can carry other diseases as well, so if you live near grass, you’ll want to learn as much as you can about them.
Ticks love animals and people who stink
Remember those disgusting little wiggly legs on ticks I mentioned earlier? Not only do they extend them in the air to be launch-ready if you or your dog passes by, they use them to smell, too! Ticks have olfactory sensors in their legs, organs they use to detect odors and temperature changes. These bloody-thirsty parasites literally lie in waiting for you or your dog to brush past. They know you’re coming because they “smell” the ammonia in your sweat. They also detect temperature changes in the air because of the carbon dioxide you (or your pet) exhale.
Remember these facts about ticks, the next time you’re outdoors:
- Ticks don’t jump. That’s why, if you have one on your head, it probably crawled there, likely from your ankle or lower leg.
- Body odor is essentially a tick magnet, as is bad breath.
- Ticks love warm, moist environments. This is the reason you should carefully check armpits, behind or inside ears, the nape of your neck, behind knees, the crooks of your elbows, etc.
- Ticks can easily crawl off your pet and onto your inner thigh, abdomen or other body part while you’re fast asleep. (Typing at supersonic speeds now. UGH!)
Think twice before sharing your bed with pets! Especially if you have a long-haired dog, it’s difficult to spot something in its fur that is the size of a grain of black pepper.
Ways to deter ticks, and info on Lyme Disease
First and foremost, keep grass mowed and avoid walking or rolling in tall vegetation of any kind. If you have a dog that loves to sniff the grass or shrubbery, beware! Questing ticks are just waiting for that warm, moist doggy-nose to draw near! Another great tick deterrent is to own chickens or guinea hens. They feast on ticks, as do possums, so don’t kill those guys when you see them. There are several natural resources for deterring/repelling ticks. It’s not known whether these aromas are unpleasant to the parasite or merely confuse its sensory organs. In the end, who cares, if it helps you and your dog avoid tick bites and Lyme disease? Be careful using essential oils, especially on pets. Always conduct thorough safety research from credible sources first.
A type of rose geranium oil botanically named “Pelargonium capitatum x radens” is reportedly an excellent tick repellent. Other helpful oils include citrus, cedar wood, eucalyptus and peppermint. Some people make body sprays while others use topical applications. Again, make sure you know what you’re doing when using oils on humans or animals. Lyme disease is awful. Three of my daughters have fallen victim to this dreaded disease, one of whom needed surgery to recover. I use the term ‘recover’ lightly because she still has symptoms from time to time that we believe are associated with her past infection. If you suspect that you or your loved one has Lyme, my best advice is to find a doctor who is properly educated. Also, find one who will treat symptoms even if tests appear to conflict with symptomatic evidence. By this, I mean that the tests are not always reliable. Trust your instincts!
A word about antibiotic use to treat diseases caused by ticks
Every adult must make choices regarding conventional medicine. I personally try to avoid commercial/synthetic medications whenever possible. I will opt for natural remedies more times than not. However, knowing the potentially ravaging effects of Lyme disease, I believe it warrants use of antibiotics. Of course, anyone taking antibiotics (especially something as strong as Doxycycline) should increase intake of probiotics to restore the immune system.
I have no certification or license to practice medicine. Therefore, nothing written in this post is meant to be official medical advice. You’re encouraged to do your own research (from credible sources) and determine what’s best for your family. It’s true that Doxycycline can cause some nasty side effects including diarrhea and nausea. It also happens to be the best choice for killing the infectious bacteria that enters the body from Lyme-carrying ticks. By the way, the ticks usually get Lyme from white-footed mice, so make sure you’re keeping those critters away from your yard, barn, garage and house, as well!