Ticks can spread a number of serious diseases and are therefore dangerous to people and pets. In this post, our San Angelo 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 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 San Angelo?
Lone Star Ticks
The lone star tick can be found throughout the South and Eastern United States. An unfed female is about 3 to 4 mm in length, has a brown body and legs, and (most notably) a single white or yellow mark on its back. Male lone star ticks are smaller and have small white lines around the circumference of their bodies. The female are aggressive biters at every phase of their lives, as they’re constantly searching for the necessary nutrients to lay their eggs. This tick can spread a number of diseases but one of the most notable is STARI, which is an illness that can lead to a lifelong red meat allergy in people.
The black-legged tick (also known as the deer tick) is one of the most common tick species found in San Angelo and has the dubious distinction of 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. Black-legged ticks range from 3-5 mm in length and have black legs. The males have an entirely black body whereas females have a black circle on their backs surrounded by an orange crescent. As with most other ticks, black-legged ticks are most likely to bite during the spring, summer, and autumn months, but may be active in winter whenever temperatures are above freezing.
Brown Dog Ticks
Unfed the brown dog tick is approximately 3 mm long but can reach 12 mm in size when engorged. This tick which is common in Texas has a dark body with brown legs and typically targets dogs and other canines. While these ticks rarely feed on humans. However, it will transfer diseases such as ehrlichiosis, babesiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever to dogs. Unlike most species of tick found in Texas, this tick is most likely to become a household pest because it can complete its entire life cycle indoors.
American Dog Ticks
American dog ticks are brown in color with yellowish or gray markings along their back. They are approximately 5 mm in size when unfed and can grow to 15 mm when engorged. Although these ticks prefers to feed on animals, they will also bite humans, especially during the spring and summer months. American dog ticks in Texas are known to carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and other diseases.
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.