Ticks are capable of spreading a number of quite serious diseases and, therefore, can be quite dangerous both to people and to pets. Here, our Capitola veterinarians explain the factors in the success of these parasites, what signs to beware of and how to keep them away from your family and your pet.
What are ticks?
Ticks are external parasites that feed on the blood of people and animals. They aren't able to jump or fly and so they generally rely entirely on their hosts for transportation. When you find ticks in your area, it's usually wild animals that have brought them there. Once in the area around your home, pets can frequently become hosts and bring these parasites into your home.
Are ticks dangerous?
Because ticks spread a number of 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 Capitola?
The Western black-legged tick (also called Ixodes pacificus) is one of the most common tick species found in the Capitola area and has the dubious distinction as being the species responsible for most cases of Lyme disease in California. It's joined by the American dog tick, brown dog tick, and Rocky Mountian wood 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, adult ticks are most active between October and May in our area.
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.