Ticks are small bloodsucking ectoparasites that attach themselves to dogs, cats, and humans. Ticks are not insects; they are small arachnids which are related to spiders. Some ticks attach and feed on the head, neck, shoulders, and hind areas, while other ticks are more prone to feeding on and in the ears, under the tail and in between the toes. When a tick is full of blood it will look like a little bean attached to your dog or cats body.
Ticks burrow under the skin with their head, so if you choose to remove them the best way is to use a pointed pair of tweezers. Grasping the tick as close to the skin as possible and pulling gently is the best approach. Removing a tick with bare hands is usually not as effective and can be potentially dangerous. Ticks can release disease causing pathogens, particularly Rocky Mountain spotted fever, that can be absorbed through breaks in the skin.
There are several species of ticks that live in North America. The most common that we encounter are:
American Dog Tick
The American dog tick will attach itself to dogs and humans. The adults are brown with white spots or streaks on their backs, when they are full of blood that are gray and look like a bean. These ticks are prevalent in the southern United States and are commonly seen near water and other humid are as. This tick can carry Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
Lone Star Tick
Lone Star ticks will attach and bite dogs, cats and humans. The adults are brown or tan and you will notice a white spot on the back. These ticks live in wooded areas and are most commonly found in areas along creeks and river bottoms. This tick carries and transmits the disease Ehrlichiosis.
Deer or Black-legged tick
This tick will attach to dogs, cats and people. The adults are reddish brown, and look very similar to a Brown Dog Tick. The Deer tick will be a much deeper darker brown that the Brown Dog tick when engorged. This tick can transmit Lyme disease, Babesiosis, and Ehrlichiosis
Brown Dog Tick
This tick is also known as the “kennel” or “house” tick. The Brown Dog tick attached to dogs and rarely to humans. Unlike the other species of ticks, its life cycle allows it to survive and develop indoors. This tick is found primarily in kennels or homes where dogs live indoors. This tick does not transmit any known diseases.
SOURCE & CAUSE(S)
Our dogs and cats can get ticks from other pets that have them and from just being in an environment that is infested with ticks. The backyard, parks, wooded areas, creek beds, gardens and inside of houses are all examples of areas where ticks live.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS
If your dog or cat has ticks you will generally notice the following:
- Shaking the head - Inside or behind ears are popular places for ticks to live.
- Chewing on feet - In between the toes is a popular place for ticks to live.
- Biting at the hindquarters
- Hair loss (most commonly seen behind the ears, down the back and back legs, tail and rump)
- Red scaly flaky skin
In some cases if your pet is infested with ticks, you will see the ticks hanging on your pet’s body; the immature ticks look like tiny little black spiders, or can be seed ticks-which look like little black sunflower seeds. The mature ticks will look like little beans.
COMMONLY CAUSED PROBLEMS
Ticks not only cause several health problems for our dogs and cats, but are carriers of disease. It is important to understand that although most of the health issues caused by ticks are caused from having an infestation, but there is some where it only takes a few ticks to lead to a health crisis.
The following are problems most commonly seen with ticks:
- Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
- Lyme Disease
- Hot Spots
- Tick Paralysis
- Skin Infections
Find out more detailed information on any of the diseases or conditions listed above in our A to Z disease section.
TREATMENT/PREVENTION & MANAGEMENT
PREVENTION is the best treatment for ticks. The most common treatments for ticks include:
- Tick bath- A bath is given using a shampoo that kills the ticks on your pet.
- Treatment of house and yard-You can have your house and yard sprayed or treated for ticks.
PetsMD recommends the following products to aid in tick prevention and treatment:
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