Tick Bites: A Nuisance to Your Pets, and Your Skin

When we have pets, there are times that they might get affected with fleas and ticks when exposed to the outdoors and the environment around them. 
Ticks tend to manifest quickly and will irritate the host body as well as may cause other skin issues.

So, What Are Ticks?

Ticks are small spider-like animals (arachnids). They bite to fasten themselves onto the skin and feed on blood. 

Ticks live in the fur and feathers of many animals. They are usually attracted to people and their pets and can easily move between the two. They are not ordinary bugs that bite you and then leave you or your pets alone. When one gets on your body, it finds a place to burrow its head through to eat. And if you wait till it starts to set up camp with a lot of blood to feed on, it continues to stay there for many days.

Sounds like there is nothing to worry about, right? Because we could just look for those ticks and dispose of them, but it isn’t that easy. 

Tick bites seldom cause any harm or any itchy sensation to the host, and it may look like a fleck of dirt in the beginning, or you might not see it either. But as the tick continues to feed, it swells up and becomes more prominent. 

While most ticks don’t carry diseases, and most ticks don’t cause health problems, they can still cause allergic reactions. On the other hand, some ticks can also pass diseases to pets and humans which can be deadly.

There are two different types of ticks:

  • Hard ticks: These ticks attach and feed for days. As the tick becomes full of blood, it tends to transmit diseases.
    The life cycle of ticks starts from the larva stage, then to the nymph, and to the adult male or female stage.
  • Soft ticks: These ones are rounded and soft, and feed for less than an hour but is able to transmit diseases as fast as less than one minute.

The most common species found in Singapore is Rhipicephalus sanguineus, also known as the Brown Dog tick. The males are much smaller than the females, about 3mm in length, whilst the female after feeding can be 10-12mm long.

Identifying Tick Bites

Ticks typically bite people and animals where it is warm, moist and hairy, namely the scalp, armpit, groin, the skin behind the ear and skin between the fingers and toes.

Besides identifying ticks on the body, you might want to identify if your pets have ticks in the first place by paying attention to the bite symptoms that may react and appear on the skin.

A tick bite may take shape like the following:

  • Bite wounds (that may lead to an infection)
  • A small hard bump or sore
  • Redness
  • Swelling

It needs to be understood that different people’s skins react different to tick bites and some bodies react with 1 to 2 inches of redness around the bite. Usually, the red area would not get any bigger. However, unless it’s really a rash, then it may be a sign of disease.

In Singapore, ticks are known to carry parasites which can cause tick fever and might affect the immune system of your pets – where the red and white blood cell count may drop to a dangerous level that blood transfusion might be needed.

Safely Removing Ticks from Pets

If you somehow found ticks on your pet, it is important to remove it as soon as possible, BUT NEVER directly pull it off. Why? 

This is because the mouthpiece of the tick may still be left on the skin, and it will cause prolonged bleeding. Also, NEVER TOUCH ticks with your bare hands as they may transmit infections.

Here are some suggestions in removing ticks safely and securely from your pets:

  • Using tweezers, grasp the tick firmly at its mouth or head.
  • Pull firmly and gently until the tick fully detaches from the skin. Make sure you do not twist or harshly move the tick to avoid leaving some parts inside in the skin.
  • Immediately wash your hands with soap and water. 
  • Return to the site of the bite on your pet or on your skin and wash it. Then, swab the bite site properly with alcohol.

Preventing Tick Bites

To ensure your pets do not catch the ticks, there are some ways in preventing tick bites that will lead to tick-borne illnesses and other skin issues for you and mainly your pets.

Though Singapore does not really have big woods or forests that may attract ticks to come home, parks and gardens that have long grass and bushy areas might be where ticks lurk.

Here are some tips that can assist in preventing ticks:

  • Wash It Off: Shower your pet and yourself after spending time outdoors. Running water and scrubbing with soap and recommended pet shampoos can help remove ticks from the body. 
  • Do tick checks: Take the time to groom your pet and look for ticks that may be on their bodies, as well as on your clothing. Use a mirror or magnifying glass for hard-to-see areas.
  • Use tick repellants for your pets, and insect repellents on yourself.

Do Not Miss Visits to the Vet!

While tick bites may not appear to be very serious (in the context of Singapore), our pets are still prone to attracting them even if we are most of the time indoors (can be the wind blowing the travelling ones in, who knows?). Constant checks may ease your pets from the itchiness, as well as preventing the from getting other tick-related diseases that may affect their health.

If you notice odd marks on your pets, or if they are still itching even when you have tried different solutions, make sure to check in with a trusted vet. 

Many vets are available on WhatsDoc, so ask away!