People and pets can contract a number of serious diseases from ticks. Today, our Merced vets describe how these external parasites thrive, including which signs you should beware of and how to keep ticks away from your pets and your family.
What are ticks?
These external parasites consume the blood of animals and humans. Since they do not jump or fly, ticks rely on hosts (typically, wild animals are responsible for bringing ticks onto your property) for transportation. Once they have made their way onto your property, pets frequently become hosts, then bring the parasites into your home.
Are ticks dangerous?
Ticks are dangerous to both people and pets because they spread many serious diseases. People can contract serious conditions such as Lyme disease when the tick's saliva — which contains bacteria and germs — enters the bloodstream.
What do ticks look like in Merced?
One of the most common tick species found in California, the Western black-legged tick (also known as Ixodes pacificus) has the dubious distinction as being the species responsible for most cases of Lyme disease in our state.
Wooded, brushy areas are danger zones for Western black-legged ticks. Both males and females have flat, oval bodies. While females' bodies are about 1/8" in size and orangish-brown (with a reddish-brown colored abdomen that becomes darker after feeding on a host), males 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 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.