To most pet owners, the return of spring is a joyous occasion. The opportunity to spend quality time with your pet outdoors can be an exhilarating experience. Just be sure to watch out for some sneaky critters waiting to feast on your pet’s blood!
Everyone is well aware of the irritation that fleas can cause our pets, as well as pesky mosquitoes spreading heartworm disease. But another problem parasite that shows up in the spring and stays until about October is the tick – and they can cause serious problems, some of them deadly.
There are over 850 known species of ticks in the world and these relatives of spiders can be found as parasites on mammals, birds, and even reptiles. Here in the United States, dog and cat owners have less than a dozen species to deal with, but all of these ticks can harbor a variety of serious diseases, such as tularemia, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Lyme Disease.
Adult ticks will climb to the top of a blade of grass or the edge of a leaf lying on the ground and wait for their potential host. This “questing” behavior puts them in the perfect position to sense movement, heat, and even carbon dioxide. Reacting to these stimuli, the tick will climb onto the new host.
Once on the pet, the tick will begin feeding. The tick’s mouth parts are designed to make removal difficult. Their barbed feeding tube has numerous backward facing projections and a substance produced in the tick’s salivary glands actually glues the tick in place. Some ticks can feed on 200 to 600 times their body weight in blood and may take several days to finish eating. It is during this blood meal that ticks can spread a number of diseases to their host.
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