Ticks are external parasites that can cause serious diseases in people and pets. Today, our Carlsbad vets explain how ticks spread disease and the steps you can take to protect your pet.
What are ticks?
Ticks are external parasites that feed on the blood of animals and humans. They do not fly or jump and so rely on hosts (usually, it's wild animals that 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?
Because ticks spread many 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 ticks look like in Carlsbad?
The western black-legged tick is one of the most common tick species found in Carlsbad and has the dubious distinction of being the species responsible for most cases of Lyme disease in our state. It's joined by the lone star tick, American dog tick, groundhog tick, and brown dog tick.
The western black-legged tick is found in wooded, brushy areas and both males and females have flat, oval bodies. While adult female ticks' bodies are about 1/8" in size and blackish-brown (with a reddish-orange colored abdomen that becomes darker after feeding on a host), adult male ticks are roughly 1/10" and blackish-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).
In its unfed state, the nymph (an immature tick life-stage) is about the size of a poppy seed or 1/25 inch long. It has eight legs, a dark brownish-black plate on its back, and a light-colored, translucent abdomen. Attached nymphs tend to be overlooked because of their small size and somewhat reduced feeding time compared with adult female ticks.
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 several 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.