In recent years, pet owners have been informed of the heightened risk that their beloved pets can be exposed to the dangers associated with ticks. I am sure that most of us are aware that ticks are responsible for the spread of several diseases; however, what you may not already know is that the number of ticks in our surrounding environments has been on the rise. Therefore, your pets have an increasing chance of becoming infected by a tick.
There are several contributing factors which have contributed to the sudden increased reproduction of ticks. Previously, ticks were considered a seasonal pest; therefore, associated diseases were mainly spread during the summer months. However, due to a trend in warmer climates, ticks have been found to breed year round in many areas. Additionally, the continued urbanization of our forests has placed our pets at greater risk for tick infestation. Also, more pet owners are spending more time with their pets outdoors in highly trafficked areas, which aids in their exposure to ticks.
Ticks can carry several various life-threatening diseases to include Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Canine Ehrliciosis. Additionally, Relasping Fever, Canine Hemobartonella, Babesia, Hepatozoonosis, and Tularemia are diseases less commonly transmitted, but nevertheless can be detrimental to your pets health.
What is a Tick and how can they infect my pet?
Ticks are parasitic arthropods that feed on the blood of their hosts and are responsible for transmitting many diseases in dogs. The ticks lay eggs, larvae are hatched from these eggs, at which time they immediately start seeking a “host” – your pet. Once a tick has attached itself to its host by placing their mouth parts into your pets skin, they will begin to feed on your pets blood supply. Once, attached to your pets skin they will not release until their meal is complete, which can last from several hours to several days, depending on the type of tick. On dogs, ticks typically attach themselves to areas where there is less hair or in the crevices. Typically this includes the areas around the ears, the inside of the legs, between their toes and within skin folds.
Most of ticks go through four life stages – eggs, larvae, nymphs, and adults. All stages beyond eggs will attach to a host and must begin to feed to mature. Depending on species, the life span of a tick can be several months to years, and female adults can lay hundreds to thousands of eggs at a time. There are four types of ticks that are most commonly found in North America – These are Deer ticks, Brown dog ticks, Lone star ticks, and American dog ticks.
The symptoms of most tick-borne diseases include fever and lethargy, though some can also cause weakness, joints to swell and/or anemia. Signs that your pet may have been infected by a tick can take up to several days, weeks or even months to appear.
When searching your pet for ticks you should run your hands over their body, paying close attention to the ears, neck, skin folds and other crevices. As there is different species and stages of ticks, a tick may be as small as a pencil point or as large as a nickel if engorged. If you live in a wooded area, it is recommended that you check your pet for ticks daily.
If you find your pet has an embedded tick, be sure to remove it promptly. Use a pair of tweezers or a specially-designed tick removal tool to grasp the tick at the point of attachment. This should be done as close to the skin as possible. Pull the tick straight out from the skin slowly without twisting or turning. Once you have removed of the tick from your pet you will need to dispose of the tick (some prefer to flush the tick in the toilet). Another suggestion is to contain the tick in an air-tight jar or container, if your pet shows signs they may be infected having the tick will aid your veterinarian in diagnosing your pets condition.
The best way to protect your dog from the hazards of ticks is to keep them from attaching to your dog in the first place. Routine checks should be performed to search your dog for ticks. You may also reduce the number of ticks in your yard by keeping your grass mowed and plants trimmed. Additionally, treating your yard and outdoor surroundings with pesticides can prove to be helpful; however, it is extremely important that you purchase a substance that is safe for pets.
Also, speak to your veterinarian about the best topical application for your pets lifestyle; however, be aware that not all products will work the same, be patient to find the proper treatment for your pet. With the proper knowledge, you can help defeat the dreaded tick and protect your pet and your family from the dangers of tick-borne diseases.
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