Ticks are not only a danger in spring and summer, they are also active when temperatures are low. These arachnids wake from their winter sleep at around 45°F. Because they transmit microbes that cause diseases, these insects are not just dangerous for people but also for animals.
The number of infections with Lyme disease and other tick borne diseases are on the rise, and experts estimate that every fourth tick carries pathogens.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, ticks in the US can transmit diseases such as: anaplasmosis, babesiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease, amongst others.
Lyme disease is the most common tick borne disease in the US, and it is transmitted through blacklegged ticks. Symptoms in pets include: lameness, fatigue, loss of appetite, and joint swelling. If your pet is displaying any of these symptoms, you should take them to a veterinary to be tested for Lyme disease.
Babesiosis, also known as canine babesiosis, is also transmitted by so-called 'blacklegged ticks'. First symptoms include exhaustion and lack of appetite and can lead to anemia accompanied by fever and lethargy. If you suspect that your pet might have babesiosis, see a vet immediately. Without treatment, the disease is lethal!
Ticks lurk in high grass waiting for their victims
The first ticks become active as temperatures rise, usually in March when temperatures go beyond 45°F. May and June see the highest activity, which drops towards the autumn months (October).
These arachnids mainly live in deciduous forests and mixed woodlands. They sit on grasses and ferns at a height of up to 1.5 meters, waiting for their victims. Haller's organ, a sensory organ on the ticks' front legs, enables the eyeless 'vampires' to detect a host animal. Once they have settled on the host, they pierce the animal's skin with their scissor-like mouth parts and suck the blood. They gorge on the host animal for days before dropping off.
Important: check your pet after each outdoor activity
After each walk or time spent outdoors, the body of your dog or cat should be thoroughly examined. Remove any ticks immediately.
In addition, 'spot-on' tick control products recommended by a vet can protect your pet. Drops are applied to the back of the neck where the animal cannot lick them off. Products are available that both defend against ticks and kill them. Take care in the case of the insecticide 'Permethrin': while dogs tolerate this substance very well, it is toxic for cats. Read the instruction sheet carefully and do not use the same product to treat dogs and cats.
Spot-on products are recommended for cats especially, rather than flea collars, because the collar can get caught when cats roam around or climb. In general, commercially available anti-parasite collars do not guarantee 100 percent protection. Each product has an expiry date that must be watched.