Our regular gun deer season opened Saturday and it looks like it will be a great season if the weather cooperates. There are a lot of deer out there, in fact too many, and for our benefit and the deer the population needs to be reduced.
I have mentioned it before but I will do so again since the subject of deer ticks is on my mind due to some recent encounters with them. One evening while relaxing on my new recliner with Kay, my Jack Russell, on my lap I noticed what I thought was a skin tag or wart on her skin near her eye. I didn't think much about it as she has such a thing on her neck. Kay is a long, thick-haired terrier; her coat resembles hair more than fur. A few evenings later I checked Kay again and saw that "tag" was much larger. Knowing they don't grow that fast, the thought of a deer tick (the Lyme disease carrier) came to my mind, so I grabbed a magnifying glass to have a closer look. Yep, that's what it was, and it was engorged with blood.
Using tweezers I grabbed the little fellow next to Kay's skin and put steady pull pressure on it, being careful not to jerk it out by breaking off the body at the head. If this happens the area can be badly infected and if the tick carried the Lyme disease bacteria it could still infect Kay (if it hadn't already). Eventually, after quite awhile, the tick let go and was removed. I then swabbed the area with a Q-tip soaked in peroxide and began to check Kay again for other ticks.
Sure enough, I found one on her shoulder which also was removed. My concern was high as Kay is 15 and an infection with Lyme disease could be deadly to her. A few nights later I felt one on her rump and then the next night a partially engorged one near the edge of her ear channel.
The deer tick is much smaller than a regular dog tick and very hard to see. It is about the size of a sesame seed (0.08 to 0.13 inches) in the adult stage and only about about the size of a poppy seed (0.04 to 0.08 inches) in the nymph stage. When engorged with blood they will be up to 0.4 inches, which makes them a bit easier to spot but still not as big as a dog tick.
Lyme disease can cause meningitis (swelling of the brain, which causes severe headaches, blurred vision, pain in the back, neck and spine, and vomiting). Joint pain, swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck area, cold or flu-like symptoms, eye inflammation, fatigue, heart troubles, hepatitis, weakened face muscles (no smiling!), rash and hair loss are all symptoms of the disease.
Lyme disease can be treated with anti-bacterial medication but if left too long can cause life-long problems. In the case of dogs there are medicines that repel fleas and ticks but, unfortunately, I did not have Kay on them because she is strictly a house dog — who last month “escaped” several times and even though for a short time she probably picked up those ticks then. Because of her long hair and the ticks' small size they were not detected until they got larger by gorging themselves on her blood. So, now we're off to the vet for a blood test and tick medication.
By the way, you can get a blood test for this disease, too, so if you think you have been bitten by a tick it would be wise to have that done right away, as the sooner you are on anti-bacterial medication the better to prevent long-term effects.
Deer ticks are becoming a serious problem in this area, so deer hunters need to be careful that no tick has gotten on them while they are handling their deer. There are tick repellent sprays for your clothing and it would be wise to thoroughly check yourself after the hunt. For years I have sprayed the outside of my deer before putting them in my van or hanging them in my barn.
Pet owners should also be aware that dogs being kept outside or allowed to roam can bring ticks into your home. Taking your dog for walks in grassy areas, especially high grass or bush areas, could have your pet collecting deer ticks. Ditto for free ranging cats.
This is becoming a serious thing in our area, don't ignore it!
Doug Domedion, outdoorsman and nature photographer, resides in Medina. Contact him at (585) 798-4022 or firstname.lastname@example.org .