Ticks are an external parasite with a bad habit of spreading serious, potentially debilitating, diseases. In this post, our Sacramento vets explain the conditions where these external parasites thrive, the danger they pose to people and pets, and how to keep them away from your family.
Tricky Ticks: Nature's Hitchhikers
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.
When Life Gives You Lyme Disease, It Might Be Ticks
Because ticks spread a number of serious diseases, they are dangerous to both people and pets. Ticks are the number one spreader of Lyme disease in the United States. Ticks spread disease when their saliva—which contains germs and bacteria—makes its way into the bloodstream of the host.
California's Most Wanted: What do ticks look like in Sacramento?
The black-legged tick (also known as the deer tick) 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 our state. It's joined by the lone star tick, American dog tick, groundhog tick, and brown dog tick.
The black-legged tick is found in wooded, bushy 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 mouth parts you can see clearly from above. Though tick exposure may occur year-round, they are most active during warmer months (April to September).
Checking Your 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.
Ticked about ticks? Here's How to Prevent Them
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.