Ticks are capable of spreading several serious diseases and, therefore, can be quite dangerous both to people and pets. Here, our Sacramento veterinarians explain how these external parasites can thrive, what to look out for, and how to keep ticks away from your pets and your family.
What are ticks?
Ticks are external parasites that feed on the blood of pets and people. Since they can jump or fly like other external parasites, they rely almost entirely on their hosts for transportation. Once on your property, ticks will often make your pets their hosts, bringing them into your home.
Are ticks dangerous?
Because ticks spread several 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 Sacramento?
The western black-legged tick (also known as the Ixodes pacificus) is one of the most common tick species found in Sacramento and has the dubious distinction of being the species responsible for most cases of Lyme disease in California. It's joined by the American dog tick, Rocky Mountain wood 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 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 very short walk through the grasses and brush, make sure you check your pet carefully for ticks. 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 (and your pet), keep your lawn well-trimmed as much as possible. This gives ticks fewer areas to breed and thrive. At the height of tick season, you'll also want to limit the amount of time your pet spends outside.