A number of serious diseases that can affect both pets and their loving families can be spread by ticks. Today, our Seattle vets explain how these external parasites thrive, including signs to watch for, and how to keep ticks away from your pets and your family.
Ticks are external parasites that consume the blood of mammals, including cats, dogs, deer, and even humans. They do not fly or jump, so they're reliant on hosts (usually, wild animals are responsible for bringing ticks onto your property) for transportation. Once they are on your property, pets frequently become hosts and the parasites are then brought into your home.
Are ticks dangerous?
Since ticks spread a number of serious diseases, they are potentially hazardous to both people and pets. People can develop serious conditions such as Lyme disease when the tick's germ- and bacteria-laden saliva makes its way into the bloodstream.
What do ticks look like?
The black-legged tick (also known as the deer tick) is a common tick species throughout the US and has the dubious distinction of being the species responsible for a high number of Lyme disease cases. Other common ticks include the lone star tick, American dog tick, groundhog tick and brown dog tick.
The black-legged tick lives in wooded, bushy areas and both males and females have flat, oval bodies. While female deer ticks' bodies are about 1/8" in size and orangish-brown (with a reddish-brown colored abdomen that becomes darker after ingesting blood), male deer ticks are roughly 1/16" and reddish-brown overall. They are longer than they are wide, and have sharply pointed, toothed mouthparts that are clearly visible from above. Though tick exposure may occur year-round, they are most active during warmer months (April to September).
How do I check my pet for ticks?
Even after a short walk through bush and grass, check your dog carefully for ticks. Be sure to check deep within your pet's fur, behind and inside the ears, between the legs, around the neck and between the toes.
How do I get rid of or prevent ticks?
You can use a number of different methods for getting rid of and preventing ticks on small pets and dogs. Your options include spot-on treatments, oral medications, tick collars, or even using a shampoo containing medicated ingredients to bathe your pet and kill ticks on contact. Speak with your vet to determine the right option for you and your pet.
To help keep ticks away from your yard, it's a good idea to keep your lawn well-trimmed. This will give ticks fewer areas to live and breed, reducing the risk of ticks being around. At the height of tick season, you'll also want to limit the amount of time your pet spends outside.