Ticks are responsible for the spread of a number of serious diseases in the US and pose a health threat to people and our pets. Here, our Gainesville vets explain how these external parasites thrive, including which signs to beware of, and how to keep ticks away from your pets and your family.
What are ticks?
Ticks are external parasites that feed on the blood of animals and humans. They do not fly or jump and so rely on hosts (usually, wild animals are the ones responsible for bringing ticks onto your property) for transportation. Once they are on your property, pets frequently become hosts and the parasites are then brought into your home.
Are ticks dangerous?
Because ticks spread a number of serious diseases, they are dangerous to both people and pets. People can get serious conditions such as Lyme disease when the tick's saliva — which contains germs and bacteria — makes its way into the bloodstream.
What do ticks look like in Gainesville?
The Lone Star Tick and the American Dog Tick are the two most common ticks found in the Gainesville area.
The Lone Star tick females have a single white spot in the middle of their back, while the white markings on the male are more diffuse. These ticks feed on large animals such as livestock, dogs, deer, and humans as well as smaller animals including birds and rodents. These ticks are particularly common in bushy, bottomland areas where deer are prevalent. Lone Star Ticks are known to transmit ehrlichiosis, tularemia, and other conditions.
The American dog tick has a dark brown body with females having an off-white dorsal shield, while adult males look more mottled. Dogs are a particular favorite of this tick, but they will feed on a variety of large animals, including humans. American Dog Ticks are known to spread Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
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.