Ticks can spread a number of different and quite serious diseases and, therefore, can be dangerous both to people and to pets. Here, our Tucson veterinary team explains how these external parasites survive and thrive, what signs to look for and how to keep them away from your pets and family.
What are ticks?
Ticks are external parasites that feed on the blood of pets and people. They don't fly or jump and so generally rely on hosts (usually wild animals like birds or deer) for transportation. Once they are on your property, pets frequently become hosts and the parasites are then brought into your home.
Are ticks dangerous?
Since ticks can spread a number of serious diseases, they can be dangerous bot only to pets, but to people too. People can contract serious conditions like Lyme disease when a tick's saliva, and the germs and bacteria they contain, make their way into the bloodstream.
What do ticks look like in Tucson?
The Brown Dog Tick is the most common tick species found in Tucson and across Arizona. Larvae are light-colored, have six legs and are about the size of a pinhead, making them easy to miss. Both in its nymph and adult stages of life, this tick as eight legs and is red-brown in color. There are no distinct markings on its back and its body is elongated with a small head and mouthparts.
Before feeding, adult females are between 3 and 6 mm long and males are a bit smaller than that. After feeding on a blood meal, female may grow to be as long as 12 mm and change color to olive or gray.
The tick drives epidemics of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in Arizona and northwest Mexico. The deer tick or black-legged tick is not found in Arizona, and while Western black-legged ticks are located in Arizona, they are not widespread.
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 fro getting rid of and preventive ticks in your pet. These options can range from spot-on treatments and oral medications to tick collars and medicinal shampoos that can 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.