With the arrival of spring, we are all happy to spend more time outdoors. Unfortunately, that includes ticks – which can cause a lot of grief for pets and people. Let’s talk ticks.
Q: What are ticks that affect dogs and cats?
A: Ticks are not true insects because they have 8 legs instead of 6. They are arachnids and are cousins to spiders and scorpions.
Q: How many kinds of ticks are there?
A: There are over 15 species of ticks in North America. Some of the most common ones are the American Dog tick, the Deer or Blacklegged tick, the Brown Dog tick, and the Lone Star tick.
Q: Where do ticks live?
A: Ticks live in every state of the U.S. and in many areas of Canada. They move around a lot and since they can’t fly or jump and can only crawl, they “hitch” rides on mammals or birds.
Q: How do ticks hitch a ride on my dog or cat… or even me?
A: Ticks are very perceptive. They wait on the tips of grasses and shrubs where they sense odors, vibrations, changes in temperature or light patterns that occur as a host walks past. Then they extend their forelegs and grab on to the passing host.
Q: What do ticks eat?
A: Ticks eat blood meals from their hosts, which can be your dog, your cat, your children, or you. They are efficient eaters and have anti-coagulants in their saliva to prevent the host’s blood from clotting so they can dine leisurely.
Q: Where do ticks lay their eggs?
A: Adult male and female ticks feed and mate on the host (again, your dog, cat or even you). Then the female ticks falls to the ground to lay her eggs. Male ticks often die after mating. Ticks are very prolific – they can lay thousands of eggs.
Q: What can I do to decrease ticks in my yard?
A: You can clean up areas of the yard that make good tick habitats. Rake the leaves, cut the grass, clean areas beneath trees and hedges. Have a professional exterminator spray regularly if the tick bloom is out of control.
Q: How can I keep ticks from bothering my dog or cat?
A: Products that kill ticks (acaricides) come in the form of monthly topical spot-ons and sprays as well as collars that last up to 6 months. Your veterinarian will help you choose the best product for your situation.
Q: Why do I see more ticks on my dog than on my cat?
A: Cats do get ticks, but they are such good groomers that they remove many of the ticks before attachment. Even so, it’s good to inspect both dogs and cats after outdoor activities and remove ticks promptly.
Q: What’s the best tick removal method for dogs and cats?
A: Do NOT try home remedies such as applying petroleum jelly or grease, or touching the rear of the tick with a hot match! These techniques cause the tick to salivate and can actually increase the chance of getting a disease. Instead:
- Use blunt tweezers and disposable gloves to handle the tick. Don’t touch the tick or its infectious agents directly.
- With tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin surface as possible. This reduces the possibility of the head detaching from the body upon removal.
- Pull the tick straight out with a steady, even pressure. Do not twist or jerk the tick as this may cause the mouthparts to break off and remain in the skin, increasing the chances of infection. Continue applying steady pressure… it may take a minute or two of constant, slow pulling to release the tick.
- Place the tick in a zip-lock bag or jar containing rubbing alcohol, and thoroughly disinfect the bite area. Wash your hands with soap and water. Label the container for identification. Include the date, time and place where the tick bite occurred. This helps you remember details of the incident, especially if a rash or other symptoms associated with Lyme disease appear later.
- Call your veterinarian and bring the tick sample to the practice. If you were bitten, bring the sample to your doctor. This helps your veterinarian (or physician) rule out or diagnose a tick-related illness.
Q: Can ticks harm their host?
A: Ticks cause primary illness such as paralysis, hypersensitivity and blood loss. They also cause secondary illnesses by transmitting viral and bacterial diseases. Ticks are second only to mosquitoes in the transmission of vector-borne disease.
Q: What diseases do ticks carry?
A: Ticks carry many diseases that affect dogs, cats, and humans. Some of the most common diseases are Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichia, Anaplasmosis, and Babesia.
Q: Are there vaccinations against these diseases?
A: Unfortunately, there aren’t immunizations for all of these diseases, but there is a canine vaccine for Lyme disease. Ask your veterinarian about it.