Veterinarian's 5 Scariest and Grossest Tick Stories for Halloween

Ticks marching across a driveway

Ticks are pesky little bugs that carry a variety of diseases that affect both animals and humans. Ticks are almost so common that people forget about them, and the real risks they carry. The truth is ticks are a threat no pet parent should ignore. Don’t believe me? Well, if you’re up for a Halloween fright, check out these freaky tick stories. You definitely won’t be forgetting about ticks after this. Read on, if you dare…

1. The army of ticks
This ‘delightful’ story comes from Dr. Mike Paul, DVM. Over email, he explained that one spring day he and his wife were called by a panicking pet parent who claimed “ticks were attacking her.” The Pauls went to her home and were astonished at what they saw. This woman was not exaggerating, says Dr. Paul. “We were able to see not a lot of ticks, but hundreds of ticks moving like an ancient army across the parking area. I have never seen so many free living ticks in an open environment.”

[Check out Dr. Paul’s article on the summer tick explosion here.]

Are you all still with me? More chills to come >>

2. Is that a quarter in your ear?
Tick the size of a quarterThis next creepy crawler story is from Dr. James Blacka, DVM. Dr. Blacka was called in for a second opinion on a cat that had surgery a week earlier to remove a small mass from the outside of the ear. Dr. Blacka explained, “I, of course, was certain that it was just going to be a scab or oozing from the surgery site before walking into the room.” Unfortunately, that was not what he found. The pet owner explained that there had been a mass forming inside the ear for the past few days and it was growing quickly and getting darker.

Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Yup—I shudder to say the cat had an engorged tick that was just a little smaller than a quarter, near the ear canal. Dr. Blacka remembers, “I showed the owner, by pulling back the ear and letting her see the little legs kicking alongside of [a] tick that was incredibly engorged with blood.” The pet parent, not surprisingly, got lightheaded and had to sit down, giving Dr. Blacka a chance to safely pull the tick free.

[Have you found a tick on your dog? Learn how to safely remove it here.]

Those little legs will get you every time!

3. Tiny tick is big monster
Closeup of tick in dog's skinDr. Ernie Ward, DVM lived “a veterinarian’s nightmare” in this terrifying tale. Dr. Ward told me that he had admitted a dog for unknown lethargy that had rapidly progressed to paralysis. All of the initial testing was normal, and the dog was said to be on flea and tick preventives. What happened next, according to Dr. Ward?

I called the owner and expressed my concerns. I recommended referral to a university neurologist. The owner agreed and made arrangements to pick up the dog after he finished work. I secretly hoped the dog would last the four to five hours until his owner arrived. I entered the hospital [room] and sat down beside the frightened canine. I ran my finger through his fur and tried my best to ease his fear. I couldn’t imagine how confused and petrified he must be. As I gently massaged his back, I felt a small scab. I absentmindedly picked at the mass, only to have it break off in my hand. On my fingertip lay a small tick. Miraculously, I had my answer to the dog’s ailment.

The helpless hound was suffering from something called tick paralysis, a condition that can be fatal. What’s even scarier? Tick paralysis can also affect people—especially children.

Dr. Ward had found this tick in time. With trembling hands, he called the family with the good news. After Dr. Ward discovered that the pooch was, in fact, not on flea and tick prevention, he expressed 3 morals to this story:

  • “Never give up on a patient”
  • “Sometimes the tiniest critters can cause the biggest threats”
  • “It’s easier to prevent problems rather than treat them”

[Learn more about tick paralysis in dogs here.]

We’re not done yet >>

4. Ticks crawling up the walls
Ticks crawling up the wall of a kennelThe next story comes from James W. Marshall, DVM. Dr. Marshall said there was a practice located in an upper-middle class neighborhood that also offered boarding. The pets in this neighborhood were generally given the best care and the people there didn’t think tick control was important because they supposedly didn’t see ticks like a lot of other practices do, until one day.

Two Golden Retrievers were admitted to the practice for boarding, but they weren’t the only two living things admitted that day. Dr. Marshall said “after a period of several days, the staff began to notice that there were ticks on the dogs and ticks now crawling up the walls of the kennel.” Are you squirming yet? I am.

It seems the two new arrivals had brought Brown Dog ticks into the practice. Brown Dog ticks are a little different than other tick species, because their entire lifecycle can be completed indoors, and the dog can serve as the host for all stages of the tick life cycle. It took multiple insecticide applications for the practice to control the problem.

What was learned? No matter where you are or what month it is, you should always be using a tick preventive!

[Check our prevalence map to see which vector-borne diseases are in YOUR area.]

[6 tick-borne diseases you should know about.]

Up for one more? Felling creeped out yet?

5. Unexpected dinner guests
Ticks on a tableOur last creepy experience comes again from Dr. Mike Paul, DVM.

A client of Dr. Paul’s was hosting a dinner party for some friends, however, some guests decided to show up without an invite. One dinner guest noticed something crawling on the floor. Yup, you guessed it – ticks, and a lot of them. Dr. Paul explained, “This client had been aggressive about flea and tick control, but unfortunately too late,” The tick colonies were already so well-settled, an exterminator had to be brought in to completely treat and tent the house.

[Don’t let this be your dinner party, learn more about ticks and tick-borne parasites.]

Are you in the mood for more Halloween? Check out 5 Horribly Hilarious Halloween Pet Videos >>

Reviewed on: 
Thursday, September 24, 2015
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