How Ticks Bite
Ticks live and die by their mouthparts. They aren’t just a nuisance, they can transmit dangerous diseases, which makes it that much more important to know how ticks bite. There are 3 basic components to the mouthparts of both hard and soft ticks. These are the palps, chelicerae, and hypostome. Used primarily for touch and taste, ticks’ palps are the outermost components of their mouthparts, which move laterally when they feed. These do not enter the skin of a host. Ticks gain access to the blood of a host by means of the chelicerae and hypostome.
The chelicerae are fang-like appendages that reside between the palps, protecting the rodlike hypostome. The hypostome are a trowel-shaped mouth organ with many backward directed, sharp barbs. There are more than sixty of these barbs, which curve backwards, making it difficult to remove an attached tick. While on a host, ticks might stroll around a bit, searching for a potential mate. However, they do not waste much time once they have access to a dog’s skin. They use their chelicerae to scratch at the skin until a small hole has been created. The tick pushes its chelicerae further into the skin, eventually using them to hold onto the hole they have created until they push their bodies forward, submerging their hypostome in your dog’s skin.
Ticks use their hypostome to both puncture the skin, and to feed. Once under the skin, sharp teeth on the front of the hypostome cut a host’s blood vessels. Once your dogs’ blood vessels have been cut, they start to bleed. As the blood pools, the tick feeds. It is important to know how ticks bite, but what transpires after they bite is somewhat more sinister.
What Happens After the Tick Bites?
When a mammal’s blood vessels are damaged, the process of coagulation begins to form clots that stop the bleeding. After severing blood vessels, ticks secrete anticoagulants to get as much blood from their host as possible. Their anticoagulants interfere with mammals’ natural coagulation, encouraging the flow of blood instead of preventing it. This means that your dogs bleed more.
The salivary glands of hard ticks actually secrete a cement-like substance, which serves to further secure them to their host. These ticks are anchored to their host not only with the barbs of their hypostome, but also by means of this additional secretion. This cement-like substance dissolves only once these ticks have finished feeding.
As frightening as these arachnids are, you and your dogs shouldn’t live in fear. There are a host of products available that can treat, and more importantly, prevent tick infestations on your dogs and in your home. Check out some options to the right.
Should your dog be bitten by a tick, this is the best way to remove a tick.
by James Donatelli