Tonya Tenters, CVT
Veterinary Information Specialist
Pet Poison Helpline
Warmer weather has finally arrived. We are all starting to get that spring fever to get outside. This may mean hiking, playing at the local park, or even just working in your own yard. It also means that our pets are getting outside more too.
Winter often gives us a sense of complacency with our ectoparasites (depending on where you live!) and our preventatives. However, we are coming into prime tick season for most of the country and it is important to understand these parasites as well as protecting ourselves and our pets.
Ticks are now found in most states within the continental United States. The species vary across the country, but the risks are still there. Ticks are hardier than most people think, and some can even survive through snow. All it takes is a few warmer days (50 degrees F) to all for the ticks to start their life cycle and become active.
There are 4 stages to the tick life cycle and during this life cycle the tick uses 3 hosts. There is an egg, larva, nymph, and then adult stage. With each stage (larva, nymph, and adult) the ticks change or molt in the environment and then find a new host to feed from before falling off into the environment to change again. A female tick can lay up to 9,000 eggs. This means that that there can be A LOT of ticks in a concentrated area.
One thing to understand is that nothing out on the market is 100% effective against ticks. There are some great products that are very good, but nothing is 100%. This means that you need to be approaching ticks in several ways. Keeping your pets on preventative and applying protection to yourself if you may be exposed. Tick checks are super important. This means checking over yourself and your pet any time there was possible exposure and safely removing ticks immediately. In some cases, treating the environment may help reduce some of the numbers of ticks’ present.
Ticks transmit a number of diseases, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Anaplasmosis, Borreliosis (Lyme Disease), and Ehrlichiosis, to name a few. Sometimes they can transmit multiple diseases. Make sure that you if you remove a tick from yourself of your pet that you monitor the area for any signs or skin irritation or infection. A lot of the times the symptoms are pets will show with a tick born disease are very non-specific. These symptoms can be lack of appetite, lameness, lethargy, and fever. Diagnostics can show changes in blood counts and further work ups are often required. So, it is very important that you mention to your veterinarian if your pet had possibly been exposed to ticks.
Ticks infest a number of animals and birds. We cannot keep them out of our environments and often we take ourselves and our pets into their environments. Keeping ourselves protected and our pets on preventative and performing tick checks is vital to stopping these pests from infesting and infecting our pets and us.