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Ticks pose a significant threat to you and your pets. Ixodes pacificus, or the western black-legged tick, has been found in 56 of 58 California counties. While more common in the California North Coast and on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada, and in Southern California mountains, foothills and near wetlands and bodies of water.
A person or pet can contract Lyme disease when western black-legged ticks acquire the bacterium by feeding on the blood of infected birds and small mammals such as mice, chipmunks or deer, and then attach themselves to humans.
Ticks prefer cool, moist areas and cling to wild grasses and low vegetation in rural and urban areas. The adult ticks climb to the tip of vegetation located along trails, waiting for a host to bush up against them, called questing. Nymphs (the immature stages of the adult tick) stay low, hiding in leaves and low vegetation and on logs.
Adults are active from October to June. Nymphs are active primarily from March through August.
Nymphs are of particular concern. They are very small, less than 1 millimeter or about the size of a poppy seed and this makes them difficult to see. In some parts of the state, more people are infected by nymphs than adult ticks.
Ticks can carry a number of diseases including Lyme’s disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Ehrlichia and Anaplasma and Babesia. These diseases have varying levels of morbidity, but none of them should be ignored. If you find ticks on your pet and they start acting ill, you should seek veterinary attention and be sure to mention the presence of ticks in your environment. There are blood tests which can detect tick borne diseases and treatment for most of these diseases is available.
The best offense against tick infestation is a good defense. Today’s external parasite control products are very effective and need only be applied once monthly on average. We recommend Frontline Plus or Nexgard for pets to protect them from fleas and ticks. Owners should inspect your pets after they have been hiking or exposed to woody areas where ticks aggregate.
If you find a tick on your pet, follow the instructions above to remove it. You should discuss the exposure with your veterinarian to see if any testing or further treatment is recommended.