As temperatures begin to rise and spring quickly turns into summer, Missouri ticks start becoming an active nuisance. It seems that while our spring has been mild, almost cool, and wet, ticks are still flourishing and waiting for us to walk past them as they linger on a blade of grass or branch. Ticks are carriers of a number of diseases that we need to be aware of and they affect our pets as much as ourselves.
In Missouri we have three types of ticks the American Dog tick, the Lone Star tick and the Deer tick or Blacklegged tick. Adult American Dog ticks are brown in color and females are gray when they become engorged. Female Lone Star ticks are easily identifiable by the white dot on the center of their backs and males have dots or streaks around the edges of their bodies. Deer ticks also known as blacklegged ticks, have black legs as their name suggests and black upper bodies as well.
Ticks go through four stages in their lives starting as eggs, then becoming larva, which we refer to as seed ticks, next they become nymphs and finally adults.
Most tick bites are not serious and need little more than removal of the tick from your skin. However, all tick bites should be taken seriously because ticks are carriers of several dangerous diseases. The most common of these diseases are Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and ehrlichiosis.
Lyme disease is caused by spirochete bacterium and is difficult to diagnose because symptoms mimic the flu. A rash or bump may occur at the site of the bite within a month and become a red ring or bull’s-eye in shape. Deer ticks and Lone Star ticks are carriers of Lyme disease.
Rocky Mountain spotted fever is caused by a species of bacteria and causes a dark spotted rash on victims. Symptoms appear within two weeks and include high fever, headache, aching muscles and a rash that starts on the wrists and ankles. American Dog ticks and Lone Star ticks are carriers of Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
Ehrlichiosis is caused by the bacteria Ehrlichia and symptoms appear within five to 10 days. Symptoms include tiredness, high fever, muscle aches, headaches and occasionally a rash that appears within five to 10 days. All three types of ticks can be carriers of Ehrlichiosis.
It is important to seek immediate medical assistance if any of these diseases are suspected. The best way to prevent these diseases is to prevent being bitten by ticks by wearing light colored clothing and wearing tick repellent. Also, be sure to thoroughly wash the area around a bite. Using a product such as Frontline or a tick collar should also protect your pets.
There is an abundance of outdoor activities in our area and with the proper precautions they can be enjoyed without the annoyance of ticks.
By Clint Mix