The definition of an ectoparasite is “a parasite that lives on the exterior of its host.” Perhaps the most common and well-known ectoparasite is the tick, something that most pet owners have discovered on their beloved animal at one time or another.
The regularity and severity of such irritations tend to depend on the specific region of the county you live, the time of year, the habits of your pet, the tick control products you use, and where you or your pet tend to go exploring (woods and high grasses tend to be especially prone to housing ticks). Keep in mind that even pets or people who spend the majority of their time indoors are still at risk of a tick bite since small amounts of time outdoors can expose them to these ectoparasites. If you’re looking to understand the effects of ticks and ways to prevent them, then you’ve come to the right place! (1, 2)
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How Do Ticks Affect My Dog
Generally, ticks attach themselves to your pet by inserting mouthparts (similar to small pinchers) into your dog’s skin and latching on. There are certain ticks that even produce a sticky substance, helping them adhere to the skin even better. Once properly attached to the skin, a tick then begins feeding on the blood of their host, making the place where ticks attach themselves become red, itchy, or otherwise irritated. (1)
There are several different health issues or diseases that can occur from a tick bite, including the rare case of anemia that happens when a tick consumes enough blood to cause a deficiency. Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever are both somewhat common diseases caused by tick bites, the first of which tends to result in arthritis and the swelling of joints, leading to painfulness or even lameness. Rocky Mountain spotted fever usually leads to a fever, lameness, and several other entirely unpleasant symptoms. Certain regions tend to have higher risks of diseases due to tick bites than others, so checking with your veterinarian could help you determine what risks of tick bites are particularly relevant to you or your pet. (1)
Preventing Tick Bites
Entirely preventing you or your pet’s exposure to ticks is nearly impossible. Ticks can attach themselves to skin simply while you’re going on a walk, hike, or doing nearly any other outdoor activity. Some places are definitely more heavily infested with ticks than others, but all it takes is one random tick in the grass to lead to a severe tick bite. The best way to protect your pooch from ticks, therefore, is by regular use of tick control products or medication. (1)
Consult your veterinarian to find the best tick prevention product for your pet. Many of these can vary depending on your particular pet as well as the area where you live. If you have a large yard that is presenting additional risks of ticks then you might want to consider treating your yard with:
- Outdoor treatments (be sure you understand what treatments you are using, how they should be used, and what effect they might have on the environment).
- Landscape changes (consider altering your yard landscape by making it less tick friendly, such as creating a 3-foot buffer between any lawn area and wood with gravel or mulch to decrease tick migration, keeping grasses cut short, maintaining shrubbery, etc).
- Decreasing the number of wild animals that pass through your yard (deer, squirrels, and other wild animals often carry ticks from one place to another).
When you go outside, keep in mind that you are at just as high a risk of getting a tick bite as your furry best friend. After outdoor activities, check your pet for ticks, paying special attention to their ears, legs, and belly, as well as searching through their fur, but also remember to check yourself. Ticks are looking to consume blood and will be just as happy to take yours over your dog’s, so be sure to protect yourself and your pooch carefully.