If you think ticks die out in the winter, you’re in for a sad surprise. Ticks are apparently quite resilient and most manage to winter over just fine, hiding in decaying vegetation and waiting for a break in the weather to emerge. Any day when temperatures hit 40 degrees and above, ticks are back in motion, experts say. The prime tick season is typical around winter and early spring. Learn how to protect your fur baby from ticks and eliminate the chance of them getting Lyme Disease.
What are ticks?
Although ticks are commonly thought of as insects, they are actually arachnids similar to scorpions, spiders, and mites. All ticks have four pairs of legs (eight legs in total) as adults and have no antennae. Adult insects, by comparison, have three pairs of legs (six legs) and one pair of antennae. Ticks are parasites that feed on the blood of their host, which can be an animal or a human.
“Ticks are efficient carriers of disease.”
Ticks are efficient carriers of disease because they attach firmly when sucking blood, feed slowly and may go unnoticed for a considerable time while feeding. Ticks take several days to complete feeding.
What is the life cycle of the tick?
Ticks have four distinct life stages:
2. Six-legged larva
3. Eight-legged nymph
Females deposit from 3,000 to 6,000 eggs on the ground. Adult ticks seek host animals and after engorgement on blood, they quickly mate.
Male ticks usually die after mating with one or more females, although some may continue to live for several months. Females die soon after laying their eggs in protected habitats on the ground. The life cycle requires from as little as 2 months to more than 2 years, depending on the species.
After the egg hatches, the tiny larva (sometimes called a “seed tick”) feeds on an appropriate host. The larva then develops (“molts”) into the larger nymph. The nymph feeds on a host and then molts into an even larger adult. Male and female adults feed and mate on the host; the female falls to the ground to lay her eggs, continuing the life cycle.
4 Most Common Types Of Ticks:
1. American dog tick
2. Lone star tick
3. Deer or Blacklegged tick
4. Brown dog tick
American Dog Tick
The American dog tick attacks a wide variety of hosts, including humans and dogs, but rarely infests homes. Larvae and nymphs feed mostly on small rodents, while adults feed on dogs, cattle, other animals, and humans. These ticks are widely distributed throughout North America and are especially prevalent in the southern United States and in coastal and other humid areas.
“American dog tick… typically an outdoor tick.”
They are attracted by the scent of animals, and humans most often encounter them near roads, paths, trails and recreational areas. Although present all year round, American dog ticks are most numerous in the spring.
Lone Star Tick
Adult lone star ticks are various shades of brown or tan. Females have single silvery-white spots on their backs and males have scattered white spots. Unfed adults are about 1/3-inch long, but after feeding females may be 1/2-inch long. Larvae and nymphs parasitize small wild animals, birds, and rodents, while adults feed on larger animals such as dogs and cat.
“Lone star ticks live in wooded and brushy areas.”
All three stages of the lone star tick will bite dogs and humans. These ticks live in wooded and brushy areas and are most numerous in the underbrush along creeks and river bottoms and near animal resting places. Lone star ticks are present throughout the year, but peak adult and nymphal populations may occur from March to May. A second nymphal peak may occur again in July or August, while peak larval activity is reached in mid-June or July.
Deer or Blacklegged tick
All three active stages of the deer or blacklegged tick will feed on a variety of hosts including dogs and people. After the eggs hatch in the spring, the very tiny larvae feed primarily on white-footed mice or other small mammals. The following spring, the larvae molt into pinhead-sized, brown nymphs that will feed on mice, larger warm-blooded animals and people. In the fall, they molt into adults that feed primarily on deer, with the females laying eggs the following spring.
“50% of adult deer ticks carry Lyme Disease and can transmit the disease to dogs”
These ticks are usually found in wooded areas along trails. The larvae and nymphs are active in the spring and early summer; adults may be active in both the spring and fall. The deer or blacklegged tick can transmit Lyme disease and possibly ehrlichiosis to dogs and humans.
Brown Dog Tick
The brown dog tick (also known as the kennel tick) is found through most of the United States and can transmit ehrlichiosis. This tick feeds on dogs, but rarely bites people. Unlike the other species of ticks, its life cycle allows it to survive and develop indoors. In fact, the brown dog tick is the only tick species that can complete its entire life cycle completely indoors.
“The brown dog tick can transmit ehrlichiosis”
The brown dog tick is found primarily in kennels or homes with dogs, where it may be found hiding in cracks, behind radiators, under rugs and furniture, and on draperies and walls. The adult is reddish-brown and about 1/8-inch long, and usually attaches around the ears or between the toes of a dog to feed.
How can I prevent my dog from getting Lyme disease?
Keeping animals from thick underbrush reduces their exposure to ticks. Dogs should be kept on trails when walked near wooded or tall grass areas.
Oral and Topical Preventatives:
There are various topical and oral preventatives that will keep your pet protected all year round. The most effective preventatives will be recommended by your veterinarian. Oral products such as Nexgard and Bravecto, are veterinarian approved preventives that will keep your pet protected in dense rural environments.
Vaccination against Lyme disease is recommended for pets that live in endemic areas or that travel to areas where Lyme disease is prevalent.This vaccine is initially given twice, at two- to three-week intervals.
“Annual revaccination is necessary to maintain immunity.“
Annual revaccination is necessary to maintain immunity. Vaccination against Lyme disease will be determined by your pet’s lifestyle and individual risk assessment. Be sure to discuss any questions you may have regarding the type and frequency of vaccination with your veterinarian.