Ticks are capable of spreading a number of different and serious diseases and therefore, can be dangerous to both people and pets. Here, our vets explain to our Santa Cruz County clients how these external parasites thrive, including what signs to beware of and how to keep these creatures away from your family and pets.
What are ticks?
Ticks are external parasites that feed on the blood of humans and other animals. They aren't able to fly or jump and so they generally rely on hosts for transportation. Once ticks are found on your property, your pet will often become a host and then 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 Santa Cruz County?
The Western black-legged tick (also known as the deer tick) is one of the most common tick species found across Santa Cruz County. It's joined by the winter tick, Pacific Coast tick, Rocky Mountain Wood tick, American dog tick and brown dog 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, 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 eliminating and preventing ticks when it comes to small pets like dogs. Your option can include oral medications, tic collars, spot-on treatments or medicated shampoo which kills ticks on contact. Ask 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.