Ticks can spread a number of serious diseases and are, therefore, dangerous to people and pets. Our La Mesa vets explain how these external parasites thrive, for which symptoms to keep an eye out and how to keep ticks away from your pets and family.
What are ticks?
Ticks are external parasites that feed on the blood of animals and humans. They do not fly or jump, so they rely on hosts (usually wild animals) for transportation, which is how they can end up in your backyard or local dog park. Once they are in a place your pet frequents, ticks use your pets as 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 La Mesa?
The black-legged tick (also known as the deer tick) is one of the most common tick species found in La Mesa and has the dubious distinction of being the species responsible for most cases of Lyme disease in San Diego County. It's joined by the lone star tick, American dog 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 the bodies of female deer ticks are about an eighth of an inch in size and orangish-brown (with a reddish-brown colored abdomen that becomes darker after feeding on a host), male deer ticks are roughly one-sixteenth of an inch and reddish-brown overall. They are longer than they are wide and have sharp, pointed toothed mouthparts that you can see clearly from above. Though tick exposure may occur at any time of the year, these parasites 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 getting rid of and preventing ticks on small pets and dogs. Your options include spot treatments, oral medications, tick collars, or even a shampoo containing medicated ingredients to simultaneously 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 in which 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.