Ticks are fairly common in the warmer months for most of the United States. Factoring in a mild winter for the East Coast this past year, ticks are a BIG problem in those states already and the season should just be beginning. Ticks are more than just a "pest", certain ticks can be carriers of serious illnesses like Lyme's Disease and this CAN BE spread to pigs from the bite of an infected tick. Since ticks must be in areas of high humidity to survive, they are most commonly found in grassy, brushy, wooded, and shaded areas. There are several species that vary in appearance, but all of the adults are small, round with eight legs. All ticks feed exclusively on the blood of vertebrates. There are two families of ticks: hard ticks and soft ticks. They have four stages in their life: egg, larva, nymph and adult.
Mating usually occurs while adult ticks are on the body of the host animal. The female then drops to the ground and deposits her eggs. When they are at the larvae stage, they are called "seed ticks" with six legs. They attach themselves to a host, after receiving a blood meal, they drop to the ground and emerge as eight-legged nymphs. The three most common ticks are the Brown Dog Tick/American Dog Tick, the Lone Star tick and the Blacklegged Tick. The Blacklegged Tick is a known to carry the bacteria that can cause Lyme's Disease. New diseases are being discovered year after year, and because they're newly discovered, there isn't a lot of information about the diseases yet, nor whether these new diseases can affect pigs, so keep a lookout for information regarding ticks and tickborne diseases in YOUR specific region. Click here to read the CDC's tick geographic distribution page to see what ticks may be in your area.
If you want to see the growth comparison of different ticks, click here for comparison pictures of each species. (You will likely start feeling ghost ticks crawling on you after looking at these pictures...I did! lol)
How ticks find their hosts. Ticks find their hosts by detecting animals´ breath and body odors, or by sensing body heat, moisture, and vibrations. Some species can even recognize a shadow. In addition, ticks pick a place to wait by identifying well-used paths. Then they wait for a host, resting on the tips of grasses and shrubs. Ticks can't fly or jump, but many tick species wait in a position known as "questing".
While questing, ticks hold onto leaves and grass by their third and fourth pair of legs. They hold the first pair of legs outstretched, waiting to climb on to the host. When a host brushes the spot where a tick is waiting, it quickly climbs aboard. For obese pigs whose bellies nearly drag the ground, this is a ticks opportunity to "climb aboard" easily. Some ticks will attach quickly and others will wander, looking for places like the ear, or other areas where the skin is thinner. For pigs, ticks typically choose an area that is softer such as behind the ears or under the legs. (the "armpit" area) However, ticks can attach anywhere. I have found them on the back, face, near the anus or shoulder area on my pig. The tick pictured below was in the "armpit" area of a pig.
How ticks spread disease. Ticks transmit pathogens that cause disease through the process of feeding. It is likely unknown if all tickborne diseases can affect pigs, but using the theory that a pig closely resembles a human as far as internal structure/organs, my guess would be that pigs could potentially contract any of the tickborne diseases that affect humans. It is always better to be safe than sorry.
How do you control ticks in your yard? This can be especially difficult to do, even more so if you have any wooded areas close by and even more so if you have a lot of acreage to cover. The odds are, you will not be able to eliminate ALL ticks, but you can reduce the amount and not give them an environment to thrive in by following some simple steps.
Tick Habitats. These are the places where you may find ticks, their eggs or tick nests. Ticks need humid, shaded areas to survive and they will move rather than be "discovered".
Tick Nests. It is important to know what to look out for as well. The tick "nest" can harbor thousands of "seed ticks" that are almost microscopic in size and barely visible to the eye. If you should walk into a nest, you may see something crawling on your clothing if you look closely enough, but they are the size of a pen point. Should these ticks wander around long enough, they can find a spot or drop off and wait for another host. This is especially important for pigs since they do tend to lay around a lot. Should your pig walk through a nest and pick up hundreds of seed ticks, your pig may present with a bunch of bumps that look as if the pig has been bitten by a slew of insects, but more importantly, these seed ticks may also be in their bedding, so you must eliminate ALL of them or your pig will likely be re-infested over and over again.
A female can lay 3000-4000 eggs at a time after a blood meal. This is what you may see in the yard or on a surface. These are tick eggs or nests and they will hatch and this vicious cycle repeats over and over and over again.
Seed tick infestation on a pig. A pig presented with bumps under the front two legs, normal washing began along with hydrocortisone cream. After a day, it was determined that seed ticks were the cause as shown on the last picture on a white cloth. Furthermore, the nest was discovered nearby and this particular pig was laying in that area day after day, so until it was identified and destroyed, each tick had to be removed night after night. Just one example of how these tiny ticks might present on a pig.
Preventing ticks on your pig. Tick bites on pigs may be hard to detect. Signs of tickborne disease may not appear for 7-21 days or longer after a tick bite, so watch your pig closely for changes in behavior or appetite if you suspect that your pig has been bitten by a tick. I do a routine tick check every single day for my pig. Its a good habit to add to your routine since having a cooperative pig can help detect ticks that may have not even attached themselves yet. If you cannot prevent them altogether, the next best thing is to have the ability to remove them as soon as possible.
Tick removal from pigs
You can purchase your very own tick specific removal tool!
Tick Ease removal tweezers takes the guess work out of it as does the Tick Twister. These products help to ensure you are grabbing the tick in the right place by creating an opening to fit any size tick allowing you to gently remove it from your pig.
**Avoid "painting" a tick with nail polish or Vaseline, using a heat source such as a match freshly lit and blown out for tick removal. The goal is to remove it quickly, not wait for it to detach. Some of the "home/all natural solutions" are based on theories using essential oils and such, these can be tried as a preventative, but we do not recommend using these methods for tick removal. If a rash or fever develops within several weeks of a tick bite/being removed, contact your veterinarian.
Are there any "homemade" remedies available to control the tick population? Of course there are. However, it is obviously unknown if these DIY treatments are effective. If whomever created the recipe for tick destruction has never seen a tick on their animal, it may be very effective, but that is someone claiming this, not scientifically proven. There are known pesticides that are effective and even animal friendly. So choose carefully. Read up on whatever you're putting in a bottle and spraying around your pigs bedding area or actually on your pig. I wouldn't trust some random internet person that I do not personally know. But, there are some relatively harmless homemade solutions that may work for you...as usual, check with your vet before treating ANYTHING yourself. Read up on appropriate treatments by credible organizations before picking what you will use. This is a great place to start. http://tickwarriors.com
Things to keep in mind when trying the ticks remedies
Pig approved commercial/processed treatments: Several products contain a number of repellents and insecticides, and are registered for direct application to pigs. These include: Inca Ban Fly insecticidal spray for animals (250mL and 500mL quantities); Musca Ban insecticidal spray (125mL, 500 mL and 5L); Value Plus fly spray in the same quantities; Flygon insecticidal and repellent spray in the same quantities and Ecovet Insect Repellent (500mL).
Pour–on products such as Taktic Topline®, which are registered for use in pigs for the control of mange may also provide some protection from ticks, as noted above in relation to biting fly control. Again, as mentioned above, Frontline and/or Advantage plus for dogs can also be used to prevent ticks in pigs. You MUST pay careful attention to the weight limits and purchase the correct weight class for your pig. UltraCruz Equine Natural Fly and Tick Spray is a product that can be purchased that is often used for horses. Bronco E Equine Fly Spray also repels ticks and is safe to use for horses, people and pigs. Permethrin 10% is deemed safe for use in pigs. Commercial farms use products like Prolate/Lintox-HD on pigs without issues. Tick Warriors All Natural Yard Spray is an excellent product.
*I am quite sure there are many more DIY methods that others may use or other products that have been effective at controlling ticks in their area, we encourage you to leave a comment on the blog or on our social media pages with your recipe, but I also must post a warning to those who may simply use what they see as credible. Please do NOT use anything in your pigs area or on your pig without first making sure it is safe to use!!
Anecdotal reports suggest that use of equipment such as portable mist blowers to apply these products to the pigs at for nightly intervals works well.
**It is important to use the products according to label directions and keep them well away from pig feed and water sources to avoid chemical contamination and risk of chemical residue. With any of these products, I would spray the solution on a rubber brush and brush on, not spray directly on your pig since it would be very easy to accidentally spray near or in the eyes/mouth.
Hopefully all pigs and their human families can be as tick free as possible this summer season! For more tips/information regarding summer seasonal concerns, click here to read more!
Our names are Brittany Sawyer and Nicole Cox and we are pig parents, pig advocates and also the authors of the "Dear Pig Whisperer" blog. Follow our blog that will feature topics to help you become the best pig parent you can be...along with some other fun things. We will also feature guest bloggers from time to time who want to share their life experience or knowledge with anyone who is interested in learning.