Because ticks can spread numerous serious diseases, they are dangerous to both people and pets. Here, our Zeeland vets explain how the external parasites thrive, which signs to watch for, and how to keep ticks away from your pets and your family.
What are ticks?
Ticks are external parasites that feed on animals' and humans' blood. Since they do not jump or fly, they rely on hosts (typically wild animals) to bring them onto your property and transport them. Once they are on your property, pets often become hosts and the parasites are then brought into your home.
Are ticks dangerous?
Ticks can spread many serious diseases, so are dangerous to both people and pets. People can contract serious conditions such as Lyme disease when a tick's saliva — which contains bacteria and germs — makes its way into the bloodstream.
What do ticks look like in Zeeland?
The American dog tick is one of the most common tick species found in Zeeland. Though diseases associated with this species are rare, they may include Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and tularemia.
The black-legged tick is found in wooded, brushy areas and both males and females have flat, oval bodies. It is an emerging species in Michigan and carries the most common tick-borne disease, Lyme disease. Other rare diseases include anaplasmosis, babesiosis, deer-tick virus and ehrlichiosis.
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).
Other tick species common in Michigan include the lone star tick, woodchuck tick and brown dog tick.
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 vaccines, 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.