Paws and Claws

Keeping pets safe from Lyme disease carried by ticks

by Cindy Anderson, DVM

Ticks are small crawling bugs in the spider family. They are arachnids, not insects. There are hundreds of different kinds of ticks in the world. The most common ticks in the United States are the deer tick, American dog tick, brown dog tick, lone star tick and groundhog tick.

The deer tick has a reddish-orange body, black shield and dark legs. The American dog tick has a dark brown body, with the females having an off-white shield and the males are more mottled. The brown dog tick is reddish brown in color with a narrow shape compared to the other ticks. The lone star tick is reddish-brown, with the females having a white dot or “lone star” on her back. The groundhog tick, also known as the woodchuck tick, is a light brown or blond color.

Ticks have four life stages: egg, larva, nymph and adult.  In each stage after hatching, they suck blood from animals like mice, squirrels, birds and deer. They then drop off, enter a dormant stage and molt to enter the next stage.

Ticks don’t start out being infected with Lyme disease. They get it by feeding on an infested animal, like a mouse or small rodent. They then pass it along to the next animal or person they bite.

Ticks can generally be found where the animals they feed on live. This includes wooded or grassy areas. An adult tick looks for its next host by climbing up on grasses and bushes to wait for an animal to pass by. Nymphs and larvae are typically found in layers of decomposing leaves.

Adult ticks feed and mate primarily on deer. You also may find adult ticks on dogs, horses and other domesticated animals. Nymphs feed primarily on smaller animals that include squirrels, mice, lizards, rabbits and birds that feed on the ground. Migratory birds help distribute ticks throughout the United States.

Tick bite prevention for yourself includes using a chemical repellent with DEET, permethrin or picaridin. Wear light-colored protective clothing, and tuck pant legs into socks. Avoid tick-infested areas. Check your family daily, including pets, and carefully remove any ticks.

Prevention of tick bites for your pets includes checking them regularly for ticks and learning where ticks like to hide. Treat your yard for ticks. Purchase a monthly topical or oral preventative from your veterinarian for use on your pet.

The staff and myself, Dr. Cindy Anderson, at Lakelands Trail Veterinary Clinic, 4525 S. Michigan 52 in Stockbridge, 517-655-5551, are happy to assist you with any questions you may have. We also offer a wide variety of flea/tick preventatives to help keep your pets safe and healthy!

Cindy Anderson, DVM

Cindy Anderson, DVM,  is a graduate of MSU Veterinary College (1992) and has practiced veterinary medicine for over 28 years.

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