Ticks are capable of spreading a number of serious diseases and conditions and are therefor dangerous to both pets and people. Here, our veterinarians in Los Angeles explain how and where these parasites thrive, what to look out for, and how to keep ticks away from your family and your pets.
What are ticks?
Ticks are external parasites which feed on the blood of humans and animals. Since they aren't able to jump or fly, they rely on their hosts (usually wild animals) to transport them around and into the area around your home. Once ticks are on your property, your pets will frequently become hosts and may bring the parasites into your house.
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 Los Angeles?
Western blacklegged ticks (Ixodes pacificus) are one of the most common tick species found in Los Angeles and has the unfortunate distinction of being responsible for many of the cases of Lyme disease in California. It's joined by the lone star tick, American dog tick, groundhog tick and brown dog tick.
The western blacklegged 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.
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?
There are a number of different methods available to you for preventing and eliminating ticks for your pets. These include medicinal shampoo which can kill ticks on contact, spot treatments, tick collars or oral medications. Ask your vet to determine the right options for your pet and for you.
To help stop ticks from residing in your yard, it is generally a good idea to keep your lawn trimmed. This will limit the places where ticks can live or breed and, as a result, reduce the risk of them being around at all. At the height of tick season, you'll also want to limit the amount of time your pet spends outside.