Posted: May 15, 2015
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Jerry had Newman. Harry had Voldemort. I have ticks. I only recently found out ticks are my archenemies. This spring they sent me a formal declaration of war via my dog. It's been rough.

Most people I talk to think we are tick free here in Oregon. NO. Not the case. My trusty canine hiking companion, Porter, has proof of this via his medical records. He's had three ticks in the last month. Here's what I've learned from my experience and from my super-smart medical coworkers at DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital.

Ticks are disgusting and gross. They are also rather hardy. Porter is on parasite preventive medication, which has helped him tremendously, but nothing is 100% effective, and ticks are harder to pre-treat than fleas. You can't assume you are totally protected, especially during the high tick season.

In the springtime, think of mild, moist wooded areas (like the Columbia River Gorge here in Oregon) as Daytona Beach for ticks; they are everywhere and they are ready to party. Protect yourself by staying out of the brush (think of the brush as tick bars) and wearing long clothing. Be extra cautious with your dog. Keep them on the trail, comb their fur out prior to getting in the car, and give them a long bath when you get home.

Do a thorough tick check after your dog’s bath. Feel around for new bumps and check for new "freckles". I found a tick less than 12 hours after it moved in on my dog. I had to look very closely to see it was a tick and not something else. The red rash and tiny legs gave it away upon close inspection. (I know, gross).

When doing a tick check, I have learned (and our medical staff recommends) paying special attention to between-the-toes, in the folds of skin, and around the head. Porter is a terrier, and ticks have hidden quietly in his beard twice. I won't tell you how I found them. I'm still traumatized.

If you find a tick, I personally recommend buying a tick twister from your local pet store to remove the parasite. The twister helped me ensure clean removal of the entire tick. I would also suggest giving yourself a pep talk beforehand in the mirror if you are as grossed out as I was.

When I did use tweezers, I missed the head during removal. Unfortunately, Porter had a bad reaction to this and got an infection. Total bummer. This doesn't happen all the time, but watch the area carefully after tick removal. Use a warm compresses to reduce any inflammation and swelling.

After removal, put the tick in rubbing alcohol to kill it. They are hardy creatures, and they can survive even being thrown away and flushed down the toilet. Many universities are interested in studying ticks and Lyme disease, so once the tick is dead consider taking a photo of it and recording your sighting at the University of Rhode Island's TickEncounter Resource Center. Actions like this help create more effective preventative medications and help to track tick borne disease.

So, that’s what Porter and I have learned in the last month. It has been a gross and enlightening experience. Be constantly vigilant. Again, think Newman and Voldemort.