Ticks are capable of spreading a number of serious diseases and, therefore, can be dangerous both to pets and to people. Here, our Columbia vets explain how and where these parasites thrive and what signs to beware of.
What are ticks?
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, wild animals 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.
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 Columbia?
The black-legged tick (also known as the deer tick) is one of the most common tick species found in Columbia and has the dubious distinction as being the species responsible for most cases of Lyme disease in our state. It's joined by the American dog tick, lone star tick, brown dog tick, and winter 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 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 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 helping to eliminate and prevent ticks on your small animals and large ones. These options include spot-on treatments, tick collars, oral medications or shampoos containing medicated ingredients to bathe your animal and kill ticks on contact. Ask your vet about what the right preventive option is for 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.