What are they?
Ticks are arachnids, similar to spiders. They have six legs and one pair of antennae and feed on the blood of their host. (Human or animal). They are also well-known carriers of disease since their feeding style is slow and steady.
Ticks have four life stages: egg, larva, nymph, and adult. Female ticks can lay up to 3,000-6,000 eggs at a time (passing away after giving birth) while male ticks usually pass after mating. After an egg hatches, the larvae, starts to feed on a host. The larvae then molts (to shed old feathers, hair, skin, or an old shell to make room for new growth) and turns into a nymph. The nymph feeds on a host and then molts into a large adult. Male and female ticks’ mate, the female falls to the ground to give birth and the lifecycle starts all over again.
Types of Ticks
American Dog Tick
Adults are chestnut brown with white spots or streaks on their back and feed on humans, dogs, and sometime cats.
Lone Star Tick
Adults are various shades of tan or brown. Females have single silver to white spots on their backs while males have scattered white spots.
Deer or Blacklegged Tick
Adults are reddish-brown and have a dark brown or black shield-like shape between their mouth parts and body.
Brown Dog Tick
Also known as the “Kennel Tick”. Adults are reddish-brown.
These ticks are unique as the female tick can reproduce and lay eggs without mating. Also, a reddish-brown color.
Diseases and how to prevent them:
Ticks can cause multiple different diseases in your pet:
- Lyme Disease
Also known as borreliosis, Lyme disease is caused by the bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi. Deer ticks carry this bacterium. The tick must be attached to your pet for about 48 hours for the bacteria to hit the bloodstream. Signs to watch out for are as follows: lameness, fever, swollen lymph nodes and joints, and reduced appetite. In severe cases, it can cause kidney disease, heart conditions, or nervous system disorders.
- Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF)
Transmitted by the American Dog Tick and must be attached to your pet for at least 5 hours. Signs of RMSF are fever, reduced appetite, depression, joint pain, lameness, vomiting and diarrhea. In severe cases, heart abnormalities, pneumonia, kidney failure, liver damage and neurological signs.
Transmitted by the Brown Dog Tick and Lone Star Tick, symptoms include depression, reduced appetite, fever, still and painful joints, and bruising that occur a few weeks after a bite.
Transmitted by Deer Ticks and Western Black-Legged Ticks signs to watch out for are painful joints, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and nervous system disorders. These also arriving a few weeks after a bite.
- Tick Paralysis
Caused by a toxin secreted by ticks that affects the nervous system in dogs. Cats don’t seem to be bothered by this. However, roughly one week after a bite, symptoms include weakness in back legs moving to the front, as well as difficulty breathing and swallowing.
Transmitted by both ticks and fleas. In cats this disease is also known as Feline Infectious Anemia as for dogs this disease is not really apparent unless there are having some underlying issues.
Also known as “Rabbit Fever” this bacterium is caused by different varieties of ticks and sometimes fleas. Cats will show a high fever, swollen lymph nodes, nasal discharge, and sometimes an abscess at the bite site. Dogs are not as affected by this disease.
There are blood tests that can be performed to rule-out or diagnose tick-borne disease.
Keeping your pets on a flea/tick prevention year-round is beneficial to keeping your pet from contracting a tick-borne disease. With some ticks staying alive in the colder months and Missouri being well-known for warmer winters, it is very important that your pet is on prevention year-round. Lyme disease is also the only disease that there is an immunization for. Call or text us today at 636.447.4555 to schedule an appointment!