While admiring the beautiful colors of the changing seasons and the excitement of the upcoming holidays our busy schedules and planning can allow us to overlook a popular pest that can invade our back yards and attack the health of our beloved pets. I have always wondered why the fall is such an active time of year for ticks, after a little research, I found out that the majority of ticks reach adulthood in the fall months.
Ticks, especially the black legged tick also known as the Deer Tick, take about 2 years to reach maturity. This is a very interesting fact because ticks don't hibernate throughout the winter. When wintering over ticks will go into a state of diapause, during this time their metabolism slows down to the point that they are just surviving, though this state only occurs when temperatures are below freezing and the ground is frozen. Eggs are typically laid in the spring and hatch in August, it will be about a month after hatching when the nymphs appetite for blood will push them into finding their ideal host. At the nymph stage of life the perfect host of the tick is mice or rats, unfortunately these are vectors of Lyme disease, this means that the nymphs who feed on infected rats and mice in the nymph stage will become carriers of Lyme disease throughout the rest of their life. When the ticks reach adulthood their preferred host will be the white-tailed deer, if you have a white-tailed deer population that visits your home then your pets will be exposed to ticks at a more common rate then those who do not have a white-tailed deer population.
To help combat the tick population in your yard their are a few steps that should be taken which can help protect your pets.
* Clear any tall grasses and brush around your home and any wooded areas.
* If possible create a 3 foot mulch covered clearing between your lawn and any wooded area that is on your property, this helps to mitigate the threat of ticks traveling from the woods into your lawn.
*Keep up on lawn maintenance, meaning keep your lawn mowed and any fall leaves cleaned up to eliminate breeding areas of the ticks.
These are all steps that can greatly decrease the likelihood of a tick infestation effecting your home, yourself and your pets.
No matter how prepared we are to combat ticks and protect our pets their is still a chance that you will discover a tick on your pet. In this instance just stay calm and remove the tick using proper techniques. The proper way to remove a tick from your pet is with a simple pair of tweezers. Do not try to burn it out with a match or lighter as it can cause serious harm to your pet. To remove with tweezers, grab the tick close to the skin and pull with steady pressure upward, in a direction perpendicular to the skin. Pull out the entire tick body. Once removed apply rubbing alcohol to the point of entry to kill any lingering bacteria and dispose of the tick.
There are three tick borne diseases of concern in our area of the country. Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Ehrlichia. Prevention medications are critical year round to prevent the spread of these diseases. Check to be sure you are using a medication that works for ticks, not just fleas. It's important that all dogs and cats in the household are treated, including those that stay outside. Otherwise those left untreated will be at risk and can bring more ticks in the environment. Before purchasing any flea and tick medication be sure to speak with your veterinarian as to which medication will be the most effective for not only your pet but for the environment and geographical area of your home.