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All About Ticks

Types of Ticks and How They Can Affect Your Pets

By Madeleine Burry. May 07, 2013 | See Comments

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    vet verified

    PetCareRx Staff Veterinarian

    DVM

All About Ticks

Ticks are arachnids that bite animals and feed of their blood, spreading diseases as they go. Learn how to avoid ticks.

Ticks feast on the blood of humans, dogs, and other warm-blooded mammals. It’s not discomfort due to the tick’s bites that makes them so problematic, but rather that many ticks are carriers of serious diseases like Lyme disease, and can spread these diseases as they bite humans and pets. Learn all about ticks below.

What Are Ticks?

Like spiders, ticks are arachnids. They survive on the blood of mammals, and as with mosquitoes, because they eat from many different hosts, they spread diseases. Most notably, ticks often carry Lyme disease, a bacterial illness that can be treated by antibiotics in its early stages. Ticks are also carriers for ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, babesiosis, tularemia, and other illnesses.

Ticks can sense the presence of humans or animals, and bite into their skin, inserting their feeding tube to help them ingest blood. It’s not a very pleasant process to think about, although it’s not generally painful, since the ticks secrete a saliva-like substance with anesthetic properties. It’s the saliva from the tick, however, that can pass along diseases the tick has acquired from its previous hosts.

Ticks are often found in grassy areas, and are most prevalent in warmer and humid climates, which is why they are of particular concern in the summer months. Because of their tiny size -- about the size of a sesame seed -- it can be really difficult to spot a tick on yourself, your clothing, or your pet.

What Kinds of Ticks Are There?

There are several types of ticks, including:

  • American dog tick
  • Blacklegged tick
  • Deer tick
  • Rocky Mountain wood tick
  • Gulf Coast tick
  • Brown dog tick
  • Lone star tick

How to Avoid Ticks:

Insecticides with DEET can help stop you from being an attractive meal for a tick. When you’re out for a walk, avoid tramping through grassy or leafy areas, and try not to expose any skin on your legs or feet. You can tuck your pants into your socks to prevent ticks from having easy access to your skin. Wear light-colored clothes to help make it easier to detect ticks. And, carefully check for ticks once your walk is over.

How to Remove a Tick:

There is much misinformation about ways that ticks can be removed. Before discussing the right way to remove ticks from yourself or a pet, let’s first dispel some old wives’ tales: it’s not helpful to put a lit match or hot needle against a tick in order to remove it from your skin, nor is a good idea to cover it in dish soap, nail polish, vaseline, or other substances.

Instead, take tweezers, firmly grasp the tick, and pull it out from your skin or your pet’s. This way, you’ll avoid the mouth of the tick breaking off and remaining buried in your skin. Once the tick is removed, sanitize the tweezers, and wash your hands and the area the tick was biting with soap and water. If you can, save the tick to show your doctor in case symptoms develop, such as fever, headache, or exhaustion, which can be signs of Lyme disease.

More on Tick Protection

Flea and Tick Medications: Comparison Chart
How Do Flea and Tick Treatments Work?
What if My Dog Eats a Flea or Tick?
Take the Quiz: Are You Ready for Flea and Tick Season?
How Do I Find Ticks on My Pet?

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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Ticks at a glance

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  • 1Ticks are arachnids, like spiders
  • 2Ticks feed on the blood of mammals
  • 3They can spread diseases by biting dogs, cats, and humans
  • 4Check yourself and pets for ticks after being outside where ticks are common