All About Ticks
By Vanessa Vandersande
(Vanessa is a veterinary student at Kansas State University.)
California is a great place for ticks to live since temperate climates donít force the tick to go dormant or the winter. My veterinary education has taught me a lot of interesting things about ticks that I thought I might share. Please remember that I am a vet student and NOT yet a doctor. Always contact a licensed Veterinarian if you have other questions.
Ticks are a very resilient and amazing organism. They have eight legs, and are found in the taxonomic class Arachnida. There are many species of ticks. Some are hard ticks from the family Ixodidae, soft ticks in the family Argasidae, and some can only be found in certain parts of the world. Most ticks have a three stage life cycle which includes the larva, nymph and adult. Each life cycle will generally feed on a mammal or bird.
Some ticks that can be found in California include the following:
A pretty (?) spotted tick whose adults feed on cats, coyotes, dogs, raccoons, other animals and man. This tick can carry Cytauxoonosis which is a fatal and currently untreatable disease in the cat. It also can carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Tularemia, and can cause tick paralysis.
A brown tick with a black shield on its back. Ixodes is the vector for Lyme disease, Erlichiosis, and Babesiosis.
(AKA the brown dog tick)
Very widespread. It looks mostly brown, but can look almost grey when engorged with blood. Yuck!! Of notable interest with these ticks is that they have been known to colonize houses. One of my Professors was working in such a home. He took a piece of scotch tape and stuck it to the wall, pulled it off, and found dozens of tick nymphs attached to it. Yuck, Yuck!! When this happens, it can take up to 100 days to kill them all, so look out for these guys on your pets.
So now that you feel itchy and crawly all over, I bet youíd like to know how to protect yourself!
A common misconception about ticks is that they jump onto their host from trees. Ticks are actually incapable of jumping; they donít have the anatomy for it. A tick will spend his night curled up in some leaf litter absorbing moisture. When the day begins, the tick climbs up a bush, never more than three feet in the air and starts waving around his two front legs. This is called questing. The legs have sensors on them that detect host odors and carbon dioxide. When a host walks by and brushes against the ticks bush, the tick hops on. In an animal, the tick burrows in and begins feeding. Left undisturbed, it will feed for 3-14 days and drop off. In the human, the tick will walk up the clothes until it finds a bare spot of skin and then attach. The first bare spot is often the humanís neck, so this leads us to the common misconception that ticks drop from trees.
It is essential to remove a tick as soon as you find it. You must remove the head with the tick, because many diseases are found in the ticksí saliva. If you are not confident, have your doctor or vet help you. An excellent product to help keep the ticks off you is Deep Woods Off.
Your vet can also prescribe excellent and satisfying tick killing products to protect your pet. These might include Preventic, Frontline, and Advantix.
It may be tempting to purchase the many pet tick treatments that are available at the supermarket. Be forewarned that these products have been shown to be much less efficient than the products that are available from your vet. Also, it is extremely important that you NEVER use a product that is formulated for a dog on a cat. Cats are not little dogs and some tick products for dogs will kill your cat.
Finally, while the tick products we have available now are really excellent products, no product is 100 percent so you should always check yourself and your pets over after going through highly infested areas.