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Protecting Your Pet (And Your Family) From Ticks

Ticks are an external parasite that are prevalent across North Carolina and pose a serious danger to people and pets. Today our vets explain what to look for and how to keep ticks away from your pets and your family.

What are ticks?

Ticks are external parasites that attach themselves to a living host and feed on the host’s blood to survive and thrive. Ticks cannot fly or jump, but instead rely on hosts for transportation. Wild animals are usually responsible for bringing them onto your property. Once ticks find their way to your yard, pets can quickly become hosts and introduce these parasites into your home.

Are ticks dangerous?

Ticks are a danger to people and pets because they can spread a number of serious diseases. As ticks feed on a host (animal or person) they can transmit disease-causing bacteria or viruses. In North Carolina the most common diseases transmitted by ticks to dogs and people are Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. 

What are the most common ticks in North Carolina?

There are several species of ticks that live in North Carolina. The most commonly found species include the black legged tick (deer tick), American dog tick, Lonestar tick, and brown dog tick.

Black-legged Tick (also called deer tick)

  • The black-legged tick (deer tick) is found across North Carolina in moist, shaded habitats such as wooded or forested areas. Before feeding the female black-legged tick is roughly 1/8”, while male ticks are slightly smaller at about 1/16”. They have flat, oval bodies, and are not hard-shelled. Females are orangish brown except for their legs, mouthparts, and scutum (shield). Male deer ticks are reddish brown overall.
  • Black-legged ticks are responsible for the spread of Lyme Disease

American Dog Tick

  • The American dog tick lives along woodland paths, in recreational parks, farm pastures, wastelands, and other shrubby habitats in rural and suburban neighborhoods throughout North Carolina. These ticks are reddish brown in color with white or yellow markings. Males are about 1/8 of an inch in length and females are a bit larger and can grow up to a ½ inch in length when fully engorged. 
  • American dog ticks are responsible for the spread of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

The Lone Star Tick

  • The lone star tick lives along woodland paths, in recreational parks, farm pastures, wastelands, and other shrubby habitats predominantly in coastal areas of North Carolina. They are about 1/8 of an inch in length and brown in color; the females have a white spot in the middle of their backs. 
  • Recent research has linked the lone star tick to the "alpha-gal allergy" in people which can result in an allergy to meat including beef, pork, and lamb.

Brown Dog Tick

  • The brown dog tick can be found throughout North Carolina and can be active year round. This tick is most likely to inhabit warm environments and may lay egg masses in cracks and crevices along building foundations. In pet kennels they can reach huge numbers if left untreated. They are a reddish brown color and are approximately 1/8 of an inch in length if they haven't fed, and up to a 1/2 inch in length if they have fed. 

How do I check my pet for ticks?

Check your dog for ticks whenever your dog has walked through grassy areas, forests, or scrub land. Be sure to check between your dog's toes, inside the ears, between the legs, and around the neck. Carefully move fur aside and look deep in the fur.

How do I get rid of or prevent ticks? 

Our vets at Western Carolina Regional Animal Hospital & Veterinary Emergency Hospital believe that preventing ticks from making your pet a host is far better than treating your pet once ticks have been found. Speak to your vet to find out which tick prevention method is best for your pet.

If you do find ticks on your pet, there are various treatments available from your vet including, spot treatments, and shampoos that kill ticks on contact.  

Keeping your lawn trimmed can help to reduce the number of ticks in your yard. The fewer areas there are for ticks to live and breed, the fewer of them there will be near your home. During peak tick season, it may also a good idea to limit the amount of time your pet spends outside. 

Prevent ticks with our parasite prevention services before tick season starts. Call our office to make an appointment today!

Preventing and treating ticks in Western Carolina, Flat Rock Vet

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