Pesky Parasites: Ticks

Ticks are a type of external parasite that attach to a host-animal and feed off its blood. Dogs and cats are susceptible to ticks, but the likelihood of your pet getting ticks depends mostly on where you live, the time of year, and whether you use tick-preventive products on your pet.

Ticks prefer warm humid climates. Their larvae cannot survive in cold weather and a certain level of humidity is required for the ticks to undergo metamorphosis. As such, for most of the country, tick season is in the spring and summer months.  However, if you live in a state like Florida for example, tick season is pretty much year round.

How do ticks affect my pet?

Ticks latch on to your pet’s skin with their mouth causing the skin in that area to become red and irritated. They survive by feeding off your pet’s blood. Ticks live in long grass, bushes, and brush so your pet is most at risk when walking through such areas. In extreme cases, ticks can consume enough of your pet’s blood so as to cause anemia. Ticks can also transmit a variety of diseases to the host-animal. Most of the diseases cause fever, anemia, paralysis, and lameness. The most common tick-borne diseases are:

  • Lyme disease
  • Colorado Tick Fever
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever

How do I prevent my pet from getting ticks?

It is somewhat difficult to prevent your pet’s exposure to ticks. This is because ticks can live in and around your home for an astonishing 3 years without having a single blood meal. The best way to protect your pet from these resilient critters is to use tick-control products both on your pet, and in your yard.

Protect Your Pet

The most common tick-control product for pets is a monthly spot treatment such as Frontline, Advantix, and Advantage. When selecting the appropriate tick-control product, the Humane Society recommends following these simple steps:

  • Talk to your veterinarian first.
  • Learn about the health concerns regarding some ingredients.
  • Never use dog treatments on cats, and vice versa.
  • Always be certain of your pet’s weight before purchase to ensure proper dosage.
  • Don’t split one “large dog” dose in half for two small dogs (or combine two “small dog” doses for one large dog).
  • Read and follow all instructions when using these products.
  • Do not use these products on elderly or pregnant animals

Treat Your Outdoor Area

Another way you can prevent a tick infestation is by treating your yard or patio with a tick-control product. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  recommends using acaricides—pesticides formulated specifically for ticks. These types of pesticides are easy to apply and inexpensive. According to the CDC website, only  small amounts of acaricides applied at the right time of year are necessary. If you have health concerns about applying pesticides to your yard, or you aren’t sure which product to use, you may consider contacting a pest control specialist.

Minor changes in your yard landscaping can also help reduce the number of ticks in your yard. Here are a few simple things you can do:

  • Keep your grass cut short by regularly mowing your lawn
  • Clear tall brush and bushes around your home
  • Remove leaf litter and any kind of debris such as old furniture, trash, or storage boxes
  • Erect a 3-foot wide barrier of wood chips/gravel between your lawn and wooded areas around your home. This will restrict tick migration into recreational areas.

To learn more about how to create a tick-free zone, you can download The CDC’s comprehensive Tick Management Handbook.

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