I must admit: I missed the signs. When I caught sight of fresh, thick blood dripping from Moxie's ear that January morning, I should have checked her out thoroughly. I simply mopped it up and thought, Oh well, she must have caught it on something. Long floppy ears are vulnerable to all sorts of things.
Three days later, while petting her, I discovered a little lump in her fur and thinking it was the beginning of a mat, I pulled it out with my fingernails. Yikes, that's no mat! Not only was it a disgusting tick, it had been attached for a while and had left a bloody hole in her skin. Within days I had extracted more than 30 of the little beasts from her coat. They ranged in size from tiny black sesame seeds to fat grey sunflower seeds. Panicking, I applied an old dose of Advantix to her coat that I had from 2 years ago, and started checking out the subject on the internet. Ticks in winter? Where did they come from? Did they hibernate and spring up in that little thaw we had a few weeks ago? Meanwhile, the Advantix did not seem to be doing the trick. Moxie’s skin was a minefield of fresh ticks and swollen crusty scabs.
Finally, I hauled Mox off to the vet with a baggie full of the wriggling fiends. It only took a minute for the vet to examine them and announce the bad news: these were Brown Dog Ticks, the only tick that likes to over-winter in your house. They were probably the offspring of the ticks she had picked up in August on a trip up north—the ones we "successfully" treated, or so we thought. The Advantix wouldn't be much help until we had the house fumigated. With diligence, we could expect to be rid of them within 3 to 6 months.
Since then, Rentokil has made two visits, and I have become an expert Tick Picker with an estimated count of over 150 of the devils. They favour her ears and between her toes, but they can be found anywhere there's fur. Every morning she sits quietly on her grooming table, while I give her a finger massage with a pair of tweezers and a baggie at the ready. Now that we've sprayed twice I've found fewer large adults, but the little ones are easily missed and get more time to grow into fat monsters.
We've all found them in the carpet:
And they're not above jumping on people when they can't find a furry mammal.
Brown Dog Tick infestations are rare and not easy to get a handle on. The engorged female adult can lay up to 5,000 eggs, but more commonly around 1,500. Hiding under your baseboards and behind your window molding, they can go without a blood meal for as long as 18 months. An aggressive approach with chemical spraying (Permethrin, the same chemical used to combat head lice and scabies) is our only choice. This means pulling furniture away from the wall, picking everything small up off the floor, and leaving the house (with Moxie, of course) for 6 hours. It's no picnic.
Dare I say, We’re winning? I’ve found about 6 ticks in the last week, a huge improvement. In the meantime, if you have a strong stomach, check them out online.