The "Ick" in Tick



Dermacentor variabilis. Sounds like the ferocious creature that might co-star in an alternate version of District 9, but it's simply the formal nomenclature for the common American dog tick—perhaps the most well-known tick in North America.

Having been advised by my neighbor that her dog has resumed his seasonal alter-ego as a tick hotel, I've scoured my own man's-best-friend for the tiny arachnids after every Hulls's Gulch jaunt but so far, no hitch-hikers. At least, not on my dog, that is. Smugly thankful for her short hair and general hygiene, I thought I was in the clear until I felt something walking up my ankle. I suppressed a horrified shriek, replacing it with a more composed, "Ick!" And with a quick kick, I flicked the tick into the sticks.

Turns out that April to August is when the local tick population multiplies by a factor of too-many-to-count, leaving us mammals (hairy or not) vulnerable to their flesh-eating ways. I confirmed this with Emily, who works at Habitat Veterinary Health Center in east Boise. She advised me that it's time to start using Frontline on pets, in addition to performing daily guerrilla raids on their shaggy coats. Ticks really are flesh-eating, although the tissue they snack on is mostly dead. However, the greater concern is that they reproduce prolifically, leading to rapid and lasting infestation. "You have to catch 'em quick and kill 'em good," said Emily. "Otherwise, they'll be around for awhile."

That does it. A round of Frontline for everyone—including me.