Ticks are capable of spreading a wide variety of serious diseases and can be dangerous to both pets and people. Here, our veterinary team at St. Francis Veterinary Hospital explain how these external parasites thrive and how to keep them away from your family and pets.
What are ticks?
Ticks are external parasites which feed on the blood of humans and animals. They rely on their hosts to transport them around since they aren't able to jump or fly like fleas or mosquitos. Most often, when ticks appear on your property, it's because wild animals have brought them there. Once they are in an area, pets will frequently become hosts and the parasites are then brought into your home.
Are ticks dangerous?
Since ticks spread a wide number of diseases, they are dangerous to both people and pets. People can get serious conditions such as Lyme disease when a tick's saliva makes it's way into their blood stream, bringing a whole host of bacteria and germs along with it.
What do ticks look like in Lafayette?
The black-legged tick (also known as the deer tick) is one of the most common tick species found in the United States and is one of the five tick species found in the Lafayette area. It's joined by the lone star tick, American dog tick, brown dog tick and gulf coast tick.
The 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).
Ticks are relatively rare in Louisiana, however, if you are outside and in areas which ticks enjoy, you still may very well run into some. In our state, young ticks feed on reptiles rather than rodents, meaning that very few ticks in the Lafayette area can transmit Lyme disease. However, ticks can still transmit many other serious diseases to people and their pets so prevention and vigilance is still very important.
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-on treatments, oral medications, tick collars, or even using a shampoo containing medicated ingredients to 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 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.