Warmer weather means more time outside on our beautiful Central Coast. Whether hitting the trails, socializing at the dog park or just relaxing in the backyard with our furry friends, we are all targets for ticks!
With our mild climate ticks can be found all year round but tend to be worse in the warmer spring and summer months. They are attracted to movement and the carbon dioxide that we and our pets exhale. So when we pass by, they climb on for a tasty meal. Each tick will need 3 blood feedings as it progresses through its life cycle and it is during these feedings that they can spread several blood borne diseases, including Lyme disease.
Prevention is the best treatment. While ticks will happily feed from us or our pets, they can be much more difficult to find on our cats and dogs. The larval and nymph stages can often be too small to be seen with the naked eye but are fully capable of transmitting disease. It is best to reduce exposure by avoiding highly tick infested areas. These are usually grasslands or wooded areas such as Toro and Garland parks, but they can also be in your backyard. It is helpful to keep bush trimmed back, groom trees and keep the grass cut to decrease your pet’s exposure to ticks in your yard.
Insecticide sprays intended for use on skin or clothing can be very effective on us but should never be used on pets. Your veterinarian will have more information about effective collars as well as oral and topical medications that can prevent or kill ticks. These products kill or prevent fleas in addition to ticks and are specific to cats or dogs. Do not use dog products on cats or vis-versa. This can be deadly, especially in cats. Some of these products used at the wrong dose can be toxic.
It is recommended to check your pets daily for ticks (including cats), especially after visiting high risk areas and during peak season. Be sure to check under the arms, in the ears and between the toes. If you do find a tick on yourself or on your pet you should remove it right away. If the tick is embedded into the skin it is important to remove the entire tick and not leave any of the mouth parts behind. For safe removal, avoid touching the tick with bare fingers. Use tweezers to take hold of the tick, and pull slowly and steadily. If you can't remove the tick’s mouthparts from your pet’s skin, don't worry. Once the body has been removed, the tick can no longer transmit pathogens, and the area should heal on its own. A very small area of irritation and redness is expected. If anything more occurs (discharge, pain, excessive swelling/redness), seek medical treatment for yourself or your pet. To dispose of the tick, place it in rubbing alcohol to kill it before putting it in the garbage or flushing down the toilet.
With these tips and help from your veterinarian, you can help keep your pets safe from ticks all year round. Happy Hiking!