Ticks are responsible for spreading a range of diseases that are serious and dangerous to both pets and humans. Today our vets in Los Angeles discuss the way ticks thrive, the signs to look for, and how you can protect your pets and family from these external parasites.
What are ticks?
Ticks are external parasites that feed on the blood of people and animals. They can't jump or fly and have to rely on hosts to get around (usually, wild animals are the ones responsible for bringing ticks to your yard). When ticks have landed on your property, your pets can often become the parasite's hosts and track them into your home.
What makes ticks dangerous?
Because ticks spread a number of serious diseases, they are dangerous to both people and pets. People can get serious conditions such as Lyme disease when the tick's saliva—which contains germs and bacteria—makes its way into the bloodstream.
What do Los Angeles ticks look like?
The black-legged tick (also known as the deer tick) is one of the most frequently found species of ticks in Los Angeles and has the reputation of being the species that is most responsible for spreading Lyme disease in our state. It's joined by the lone star tick, American dog tick, groundhog tick, and brown dog tick.
The black-legged tick is found in wooded, brushy 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 feeding on a host), male deer ticks are roughly 1/16" and reddish-brown overall. They are longer than they are wide, and have sharply pointed, toothed mouthparts you can see clearly 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 can I get rid of ticks or prevent them?
There are various different methods you can use to get rid of ticks or prevent them from attaching to your cat or dog. Some of these options include oral medications, spot-on treatments, tick collars, and even bathing your pet with shampoos that have medicated ingredients that kill ticks on contact. Talk to your vet about the best options 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.