Because they can spread many serious diseases, ticks are dangerous to both pets and people. Here, our Tennessee vets describe how external parasites thrive. We list which signs to watch for, and how to keep ticks away from your pets and your family.
What are ticks?
These external parasites feed on the blood of humans and animals. They do not jump or fly and so rely on hosts (wild animals are typically responsible for bringing ticks onto your property) for transportation. Once they've entered your property, pets frequently become hosts, and parasites are 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 Tennessee?
The black-legged tick (also known as the deer tick) is one of the most common tick species found in Tennessee 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, winter tick, and brown dog tick.
The black-legged tick is found in wooded, bushy areas and both males and females have flat, oval bodies. While female deer ticks' bodies are about 1/8" in size and orangish-brown (with a reddish-brown colored abdomen that becomes darker after feeding on a host), male deer ticks are roughly 1/16" and reddish-brown overall. They are longer than they are wide, and have sharply pointed, toothed mouthparts you can see clearly from above. Though tick exposure may occur year-round, they are most active during warmer months (April to September).
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 parasite prevention products from your vet, 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.