Ticks are capable of spreading a number of serious diseases and, therefore, are dangerous to both people and pets in the Los Angeles area. Here, our vets explain how these external parasites survive and thrive, what signs to beware of and how to keep them away from your pets and family.
What are ticks?
Ticks are external parasites that feed on the blood of humans and animals. They aren't able to jump or fly like other external parasites so they rely entirely on their hosts (usually wild animals) for transportation into the area around your home. Once ticks are on your property, pets will frequently become hosts and bring these parasites into your home.
Are ticks dangerous?
Since ticks are able to spread a number of quite serious diseases, they are considered to be dangerous both to people and to pets. They can transmit serious conditions like Lyme disease to their hosts when their saliva—and the germs and bacteria in it—make its way into the bloodstream.
What do ticks look like in Los Angeles?
The Western black-legged tick (also known as Ixodes pacificus), is one of the most common species found in California and has the dubious distinction as being the species responsible for most cases of Lyme disease in our state. It's joined by the lone star tick, American dog tick, groundhog 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 females' bodies are about 1/8" in size and orangish-brown (with a reddish-brown colored abdomen that becomes darker after feeding on a host), males 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 just a short walk through bush and grass, make sure that you check your pet for ticks meticulously, Look deep inside their fur, being their ears, between their legs, between their toes and around their neck.
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.