Hello everyone! It’s hot hot hot as usual in Singapore. The constant humidity in Singapore creates the perfect conditions for tick season, unlike in other countries, where there are four seasons. Tick season typically occurs in Spring or Summer in other places, but for us in Singapore, it’s a year-round event. When we first got Polar, we were ecstatic when we found that we could let him run leash-free in dog runs. Watching Polar stretch his legs out and bolting across the dog run is an amazing sight. However, all that fun came with a very big problem. A very big tick problem.
Polar is a Japanese Spitz, which also means he is double coated, full of furry goodness and very hug-gable. I often hug him to sleep, and the thought of ticks hidden beneath his fur gives me the shudders. We had been diligently applying tick prevention measures such as Frontline Plus on our dog, so we didn’t understand how ticks could still be a problem. We later discovered that the dosage we were giving him was too little; for small dogs up to 10kg, but Polar had since ballooned to a medium-sized 12kg .
First, a cute photo of Polar to make us all feel better before we explore who our arch-nemesis is, The Tick.
What is a tick?
Ticks are extremely disgusting little parasites that feed on the blood of various warm-blooded hosts, usually dogs & cats but there have been occurrences where they bite humans too (we experienced this during our infestation). Like mites and spiders, ticks are arachnids. The most commonly found tick in Singapore are the Brown Dog Ticks. Ticks have eight legs, and mouthparts that attach and suck blood to feed. The blood meal allows the female tick to produce eggs and continue the life cycle. Ticks find their hosts by climbing onto blades of grass or tall weeds, or if indoors, walls and furniture to drop onto their hosts as they pass by. They then grab onto the host to feed on for several hours if not days. They are very small and enjoy hiding in hard-to-reach places (like the nooks and crannies of our homes), and on our dogs.
The worse part of all this is that they can actually transmit some rather deadly diseases to your pet. Some of the diseases are:
- Canine Babesiosis
Blood borne parasites (Babesiosis canis or Babesiosis gibsoni) are being injected into the dog’s blood stream as the tick sucks for its blood meal. This will cause anemia, lethargy, appetite loss and weight loss. Some dogs may also have vomiting and diarrhea, with severe abdominal pain. The spleen of the dog can also be swollen. Some may have high fever (sometimes called tick fever).
- Canine Ehrlichiosis
Also transmitted via blood borne parasites. Affected dogs will suffer from nose bleeds, anemia, and high fever
- Lyme Disease
Not common as the carrier tick is usually the deer tick. This will cause lameness, joint swellings and pain. The dog may also have fever, loss of appetite and weakness.
- Tick paralysis
Mainly transmitted by the American dog tick, lone star tick or the black legged tick. It is very rare in Singapore as we mainly have the common brown dog tick. Tick paralysis can be fatal. Affected dogs will have gradual ascending paralysis. Both hind legs will be wobbly and as the disease progresses, it can lead to front leg paralysis and eventual respiratory failure.
So within a couple of months, we found ourselves combating a tick infestation in the house. We had a lot of carpets, curtains and lots of places for these little buggers to hide. Initially we found some big ones on Polar or hanging off walls, then they got smaller and harder to detect. It came to a point where I was pulling out 30 ticks a day off Polar. It was emotionally trying for me, and poor Polar must have been feeling so uncomfortable.
When you find ticks on your dog, how do you remove them? Essentially, you only need three things:
- Tweezer (preferably one that you won’t be using on your face anytime soon)
- Tissue paper
- Alcohol swab
Just three things!
Step 1: Spot the tick
Polar’s double coat makes it is incredibly hard to find ticks on his skin. We use a hair dryer to blow under his fur so that we can spot ticks. It’s also a good practice to scan for ticks on your dog when he’s in the shower as his fur can be parted more easily.
Step 2: Drown the tick
After spotting the tick, I use the alcohol swab to press on the tick and drown him in the alcohol. Ticks hate alcohol. This gets the tick to loosen its grip on your dog.
Step 3: Pluck him out
Take the tweezer, grab the tick by the head and pull it straight out. You’ll find that sometimes you may been to twist the tweezers in an upward motion a little to dislodge the bugger.
Step 4: Disinfect
Use another alcohol swab to clean and disinfect the bite wound on your dog.
Step 5: Destroy
There are several methods to this. Some choose to drown them in alcohol. We chose to drown them in alcohol before squashing them and complete it with the grand send off – in the toilet bowl.
Different sizes of ticks
So now you know how to remove a tick. In normal circumstances, the tick ordeal would be over, but for us, we realised that the ticks had infiltrated our home – we had found an engorged mother tick, and over time, the ticks on Polar were small little baby ones rather than the medium sized ones, which usually means that the ticks were reproducing within the household, and hiding in the little nooks and crannies of the furniture. So how do you know you have a tick infestation?
- You find more than 5 ticks on your dog daily (Poor Polar, yes we did)
- You see ticks chilling out on your walls or ceilings (Check – we did, oh the horror)
- You feel or find ticks crawling on you (Check – we did)
If you are saying yes to our mini check list, I can imagine that you’ll be panicking right about now. We’ve been there, done that, and SURVIVED. We’re tick infestation survivors and you will be too!
Fret not, we’re going to share our personal experience of dealing with this problem. We considered getting a pest exterminator but depending on the size of your house, this can be very expensive. The quotes that we got were at least S$1,000 and involved getting everybody out of the house for a day, covering everything with cloth etc, and a major clean up after – which was almost impossible for our household as we lived with our parents.
So we decided to DIY our way through.
Step 1: Get Supplies
We tried a large variety of products because at that point I was panicking and just getting everything I could get my hands on. From using topical drip-on, to natural drip-ons, to dog tag, to sprays, to amber necklaces – we tried everything. I was desperate to get Polar tick-free again. Essentially, you need to stock up on certain supplies. What we are currently using now is Vet’s Best Flea & Tick spray, for two reasons really. One, it smells really nice and doesn’t make me feel like I’m going to poison us all. Two, it is all natural, made of peppermint oil and clove extract. We now always have 4 bottles of this at home in case of any relapse of tick problems.
Also, you’ll need a vacuum cleaner, ideally a steam iron and lots of determination to see this through. Oh, and also a ladder!
Step 2: Send Dog To The Groomer
Before we started our whole clean up, we also sent Polar to the groomers – Suds & Scissors to get his fur cut short, and to get treated for the ticks. Cutting your dog’s fur short will aid you in your daily search for ticks. The groomer will help you remove all the ticks that they find, and soak him in a treatment to kill any remnants of the ticks. Polar wasn’t too pleased.
Step 3: Clean The House
While your dog is away at the groomer’s, this is when we start the grand clean up. We understand that some of us stay with parents and other family members (which is our case), it can be hard to get everyone cooperating in your little clean up operation.
We had a lot of carpets and curtains in the house and it was almost impossible to send them all for dry cleaning. We started off with vacuuming every corner we could. We moved furniture around, lifted carpets and just vacuumed everything. After that we started wiping everything, we used the ladder to help us reach the top hidden areas like the top of curtain frames, top of doors etc (and it was gross).
After which, we steamed everything that was fabric, curtains, sofas, carpets, exposed clothes, everything that we could see. High heat kills the little buggers. We also soaked Polar’s bed in hot water. Finally, we sprayed everything with Vet’s Best Spray. Things felt a little sticky for awhile but eventually your house will smell really nice! =P
Step 4: Consistency
You’ll probably need to repeat this at least two to three times until you see the tick problem subsiding.
Step 5: Prevention Methods On Dog
All this is on top of us putting Frontline Plus on Polar and checking him daily for ticks. For Polar, we changed it to medium dosage on top of two other things;
It’s an antiparasitic tag charged with special, electromagnetic scalar waves,which repels the fleas and ticks (or so they say). To be honest, it’s very hard for us to determine if this product really works but at that point, I took whatever option there was, but only after receiving good reviews about it. As it is slightly pricey – $125, you may want to ask around if it works for other people. I think it works but it might also be a combination of factors for our case.
We use this before we bring Polar on walks. It’s 100% natural, made in New Zealand, and can be used together with Frontline Plus without any additional harm. It is made out of Neem Oil and Essential Oils of Cedarwood, Rosemary, Lemongrass, Peppermint & Thyme; in a Sunflower Oil base. Although it only says flea repellant but these ingredients are known to repel fleas and ticks. This costs $19.
We have also stopped going into dog runs or grass areas unless we are going to shower him that day. Looking back, those were dark times. We are very happy that the entire de-ticking process took us about 2 – 3 months, and there were a lot of frustrating moments but it’s finally over. Polar and our home are now tick-free! We’ve learnt to be more careful about where he goes, and to do daily checks accompanied with massages.
Ideally, we’ll like to use Frontline Plus less frequently because that’s essentially putting insecticide on your pet, so if our progress keeps up, we’ll stop Frontline Plus completely and depend solely on the dog tag and the washbar repellent. We hope what we posted was helpful and if you have any additional tips, please feel free to share with us!
P.S, if you would like to get some of the above items from Nekojam, be sure to put in “polarthecurious” under promo code and get $5 off your purchase!
If you’ll like to read more on where I got my information from: https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/dog-care/ticks-and-lyme-disease http://blog.theanimalrescuesite.com/tick-tips-for-your-dog/?utm_source=faceaff&utm_medium=lk&utm_campaign=tick-tips-for-your-dog&utm_term=20150518 http://www.petmd.com/dog/parasites/evr_multi_common_ticks_dogs_cats http://www.rd.com/home/12-ways-to-use-rubbing-alcohol/
Until next time, stay curious!