Ticks can spread a number of serious diseases and pose a danger to pets and people. In this post, our vets explain which ticks are commonly found in California and how to protect your pet and 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.
Why are ticks dangerous?
Ticks spread a number of serious diseases, such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever to both pets and people. Ticks spread disease through their saliva when they bite and feed on their host.
What do ticks look like in Long Beach?
The brown dog tick is one of the most common tick species found in California. It's joined by the western black-legged tick, the American dog tick, and the closely related Pacific Coast tick.
The brown dog tick is dark, shiny, and has no markings. It is primarily a blood-sucking nuisance of dogs (although it will also bite humans), and is the tick most commonly found in dog kennels.
The western black-legged tick has a reddish-brown abdomen, a black shield, and black legs. It is most often found in areas inhabited by deer or other large animals. Adult ticks feeding on humans may produce painful lesions which are slow to heal and frequently scar. This tick is the recognized vector of Lyme disease, babesiosis, and ehrlichiosis in the western United States.
The American dog tick and the closely related Pacific coast tick are brown with grey markings and are found in open fields and other natural areas.
Due to the warm climate in southern California, tick exposure may occur year-round.
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.
Be sure to check yourself as well as you could easily bring a tick into your home on your clothing. It's a good idea to wear light-colored clothing that makes ticks easier to see.
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.
When walking outdoors in wooded areas, try to stay near the center of the trail and avoid areas with brush or tall grass.