While it is common to think of ticks as insects, they are arachnids similar to mites, spiders, and scorpions, explained Ryan Llera, BSc, DVM, and Ernest Ward, DVM, of VCA, an operator of over 1,000 animal hospitals in the US and Canada. Unlike adult insects—which have six legs and one pair of antennae—all adult ticks have eight legs and no antennae.
As parasites, ticks feed on their hosts’ blood, which can be a human or an animal. They can carry disease because ticks latch firmly on their host when sucking blood. Ticks feed on their host slowly and may be unnoticeable for an amount of time while feeding, which can last for several days.
A Survey of Tick Infestation Among Dogs and Cats Across the US (2019)
Meriam N. Saleh and colleagues of BMC, a pioneer of open access publishing, wrote that ticks submissions were invited from 190 enrolled veterinary practices in 50 states. In total, 263 veterinary practices in 49 states submitted 10,087 ticks from 1,494 dogs. Owners estimated the amount of time dogs spent outdoors, with 0.7% saying <1%, 48.8% stating 1-30%, 27.8% saying 31-70%, and 22.6% answering >70%. The amount of time spent outdoors was not recorded for 452 dogs.
D. variabilis (35.6%), Ixodes scapularis (27.4%), A. americanum (23.1%), and R. sanguineus (11.4%) were found in 1,494 tick-infested dogs. A smaller proportion of dogs had A. maculatum (6.6%), I. pacificus (1.5%), or Otobius megnini (0.4%). A few dogs were also infested with I. angustus (5 dogs), I. cookei (n = 4), I. affinis (4), Ixodes sp. (1), D. albipictus (2), or D. andersoni (1). 93 dogs were observed to be co-infested with more than one tick species.
Overall, 109 veterinary practices in 39 states submitted 891 ticks from 336 cats. The owners estimated that the amount of time their cats spent outdoors was none (4.2%), 0.5–30% (12.7%), 31–70% (26.5%), and > 70% (56.5%). The time spent outside for 53 cats was not provided. I. scapularis was present on 46.4% of 336 cats with ticks, along with A. americanum (29.5%), and D. variabilis on (17.9%).
A smaller number of cats were found to have O. megnini (3.9%), R. sanguineus (1.5%), A. maculatum (1.5%), or D. albipictus (1.2%). Three cats were infested with I. pacifus, three were infested with I. affinis, two had D. andersoni, 1 had I. angustus, and 1 had H. longicornis. 14 cats were observed to be co-infested with more than one tick species.
Regarding ticks species and stages, the majority of submitted ticks were larvae (45.4% of 10,978 ticks), adult females (24%), nymphs )15.8%), and adult males (14.8%). Adult females were observed to be in the predominant stage of D. variabilis (59.2%) and I. scapularis (82.7%) submitted. Larvae comprised of the majority of R. sanguineus (64.3%) and A. americanum (39.1%) submitted. Ticks were submitted every month of the year, with 55.8% of ticks recovered in July, which consisted of R. sanguines (89.2%).
How to Treat Ticks In Dogs?
Ticks are large enough to be seen, especially if they have already taken a bite, said Purina, a producer of pet food, treats, and cat litter. Ticks can appear like small warts, but upon closer inspection, they have legs. They can usually be spotted around your dog’s head and neck area. Part its fur and run your fingers along your pet’s skin. Tick bites can also cause irritation and redness.
Don’t pull a tick out of your canine’s skin! Doing this may leave the tick’s mouthpart behind, which can cause infection or inflammation. Consult your veterinarian to provide you a specially designed tick removal tool to take the mouthparts off your dog’s skin. Ask them if you want your vet to show you how to remove ticks.
Check if the tick’s head and legs are intact once you removed it. Be sure that there is nothing on your pet’s skin. If you live in an area where ticks are more abundant, you can prevent them from infesting your dog by using veterinary-approved treatments. Collars, spot-on treatments, and tablets can repel or kill ticks once they latch onto your dog.
Checking your dog for ticks should be part of your pet’s grooming routine. Remember that ticks can sometimes transmit diseases like Lyme disease to animals. Lyme disease can also infect humans and if you are bitten and feel unwell, consult your physician immediately.
How to Get Rid of Ticks In Cats
Your cat can catch ticks from other animals, stated Purina. Cats often interact with other animals when they leave the house, making it easier for ticks from one animal to attach to your pet feline.
Ticks could also attach to your clothes if you like taking walks outside in fields or woodland areas. Ticks cling on top of branches or blades of grass, attaching themselves to your hair and clothing when you pass through. Hence, indoor cats are also vulnerable to tick infestation. Whether your pet is an indoor or outdoor cat, you have to be aware of what you should do if your pet is infested with ticks.
Like dogs, ticks can be seen by the naked eye and inflict a wart-like bite on your cat’s skin. You can usually find ticks around your feline’s head and neck area. Bites can also cause irritation and redness. Cats can contract diseases from ticks like Ehrlichiosis. If your cat is afflicted with this disease, it will start to exhibit symptoms such as diarrhea, swollen glands, anorexia, lethargy, swollen joints, eye discharge, and more. Ticks can also cause “Q fever” and its symptoms include anorexia, depression, miscarriages, high fever, and occasional seizures (albeit not very common).
To remove ticks, don’t pull or squeeze its body. Pulling it may end up leaving the tick’s mouthpart behind while squeezing it may expel blood into your cat, with the latter increasing the likelihood of infection, warned Purina and Bluecross, an animal charity in the UK.
Can I Be Bitten By Ticks?
Ensure that ticks do not cling onto your clothes when you are removing them from your cat or dog. If you are bitten, remove it without leaving the tick’s mouthpart behind and consult your physician even if you don’t feel sick.
Tick infestation can be dangerous as ticks can infect animals with Lyme disease or Ehrlichiosis. Owners can remove ticks from their pet’s skin by themselves; however, it is recommended to consult a veterinarian for proper removal and treatment.