An inelegant photo I know, but I should like to stress the importance of tick vigilance. More and more cases of this are being reported throughout the UK each year. Dogs are getting it, and I know of at least one horse within a few miles of here. All you Americans reading this will be very up to speed on this serious illness which is transmitted by tick bites. The name of the disease comes from Lyme, Connecticut, USA where it was first recognised. The disease if not caught in its very early stages causes serious disability including Rheumatoid Arthritis and even death. The problem is knowing when you have got it. I had always assumed that the tiny nymph ticks- like the one shown on my leg this afternoon- were relatively harmless. However my wonderful Vet told me a few months ago that this is not the case. I know exactly where and when I picked this one up, and it was this morning in the kitchen . I felt a sharp bite, and assumed that it was one of those pesky biting flies which so annoy my horse in the Summer months. In the last few days we have had really fabulous weather, and there is now a tick explosion. The ticks lurk in the long grass waiting to latch on to any warm blooded creature which passes. Another good reason to keep the deer population down, as they are the main culprits in the UK for increasing tick numbers. Remember that all the sheep etc are routinely dipped each year to control ticks etc, but not the wild deer population!
Last night we took 5 ticks off Poppy the Cocker Spaniel . I am confident that the tick that attacked me today, came off her coat onto the kitchen floor , and stayed around for a few hours, waiting for fresh meat. Today I rushed out to get Frontline for all 4 dogs, and they have now been treated. Obviously, my training sessions with Poppy have involved getting her to hunt in cover, and that is how she picked up so many. The worst encounter we have had with ticks was when we went off Roe deer stalking in Wiltshire some years back, and all of us got covered in ticks, even after wearing long trousers tucked into boots. One of my worst abiding memories is watching a trail of live ticks work their way across the bathroom floor from my husbands discarded pile of clothes towards him whilst he was in the shower.
You need not panic straight away though. Get a proprietary tick remover, which is like a very fine pair of sprung loaded tweezers which you apply to the tick and then twist to get it off, and only seek medical advice if you exhibit symptoms. For at least one month, be extra vigilant over your health, and the site where you had the tick attached. If you experience any flu like feelings, and / or notice an odd circular rash which resembles the Bulls Eye of a dartboard, then by hook or by crook get a strong course of tetracyclines, as that is the only way you can get rid of it, and even then only if it is caught in the early stages. The UK Doctors are possibly getting better at dealing with this, as the disease is on the up here. My husband did get a bulls eye rash, and we did go to our local GP, who had to look up an antiquated text book to find out about it. He did not think that there was anything to worry about, but I was not going to accept his nonchalance. Fortunately I had a fellow rider friend who was a consultant Haematologist. She performed blood tests, and said that even though the results appeared negative, we should not sit on our laurels as often the blood tests are inconclusive, especially in the early stages. Then we found a private GP who was willing to write the necessary prescription based on my friends advice. So far so good! The trouble is that we no longer have any private GPs locally, so I dread to think what will happen on the good old NHS. The main thing is to get treatment STRAIGHT away if you have any of the classic symptoms. Actually, I think the UK Vets are probably your best port of call to start with!