Ticks are capable of spreading a number of serious diseases and, therefore, are dangerous both to pets and people. Here, our Des Moines veterinary team explains how these external parasites thrive, what signs you should look out for and how to keep ticks away from your pets and family.
What are ticks?
Ticks are external parasites that survive by feeding on the blood of humans and animals. They don't jump or fly and so, they generally rely on hosts like wild animals for transportation. Once ticks are in your area or on your property, they will often make your pets hosts and then will be brought into your home.
Are ticks dangerous?
Ticks can spread a number of serious diseases. Because of this, they can be dangerous both to pets and to people. Humans can contract serious conditions like Lyme disease when the saliva of an infected tick—and the germs it contains—makes its way into their bloodstream.
What do ticks look like in Des Moines?
The western black-legged tick (also known as Ixodes pacificus) is one of the most common tick species found in Des Moines and has the dubious distinction as being the species responsible for most cases of Lyme disease in Washington state. It's joined by the American dog tick, Rocky Mountain wood tick and soft 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 a short walk through brush or long grass, make sure that you check your pet carefully for ticks. Pay special attention to deep within their fur, behind and beside their ears, around their legs and between their 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 prevent ticks from taking up residence in your yard, it's generally a good idea to keep your lawn well-trimmed. This will provide ticks with fewer areas to breed and live, reducing the risk of them being around altogether. At the height of tick season in your area, try to limit the amount of time your pet spends outside as much as possible.