Ticks and Nips

Ticks and Nips

By Marty Strausbaugh KPA-CTP


It's a week after Thanksgiving here in Far Nor Cal and I took my dog Belle out for a run with my mountain bike.  We’ve been working on improving her running stamina and this exercise session was a loop that’s just short of 9 miles.  Belle likes to run right next to me, well, she actually prefers to run out in front of me, but I’m teaching her to run next to me or behind me.  This puts her on the outside line of a single track trail and sometimes a bit into the weeds, which are pretty dry this time of year.  She absolutely loves running through the woods.

When we return to the house I always check her paws and pads to make sure she’s okay after our exercise.  This time I noticed a tick on her belly.  This isn’t normal for our area in the winter months and I usually don’t spray the mixture of essential oils on her that I use to repel these parasites in the summer. We’ve had a fair amount of rain and many cold days, but no days below freezing here in the valley.  It’s been kind of a mild season so far.  Upon further investigation I found more ticks, some that were very small, like the tip of a ballpoint pen. 

So I get out the isopropyl alcohol and get to work removing these horrible creatures.  I use my fingers trying to separate as much hair as I can to isolate them before plucking them out of her skin, then I drop them into a cup with some of the alcohol. The very small ones were just too tiny for my short stubby fingers to grasp, so I got some tweezers.  I work on her belly and there are a couple small ones that seemed to be very sensitive for her.  In fact, every time I try to get a grip on them she jumps up in protest.  I then have to coax her back down and roll over so I can get back to work.  I decided to grab my reading glasses to get a better look and I’m so glad I did and I’m sure Belle was too.  The last two small ticks on her belly weren’t actually ticks at all, they were NIPPLES!  OMG, I’m so glad I didn’t just force her down and rip them off!  After many, many apologies to my trusted friend, I decided to take a break from tick removal.

The following day I resumed my work, methodically searching every inch of her body and pulled off a total of 27 ticks!  They were on her chest, shoulders, neck, head, ears, and of course her previously mentioned belly.  Belle was so good about me doing this even though I would inadvertently pull out some hair with each tic.  I remembered to follow each removal with a special treat for her to make sure she will always allow me to perform this unpleasant task. 

So, the moral of this story is to listen to your dog, allow them to disagree with what you’re doing and to always take a closer look at what your dog finds uncomfortable.  Through classical conditioning, we can teach our dogs to actually enjoy things they find unpleasant, such as toenail clipping, bathing or any procedure at the veterinarian.   

Marty Strausbaugh