Ticks are parasitic organisms that attach themselves by mouth to the skin of dogs, cats, and other mammals. These parasites feed on the blood of their hosts and can cause toxicosis or hypersensitivity, and in some cases blood loss anemia. Ticks can also be transmitters of bacterial or viral diseases. The skin, the lymphatic and immune systems, and the nervous systems, can be negatively affected if gone untreated. Ticks come in four stages: egg, larvae, nymph, and adult.
Cats are also prone to tick infections. If you would like to learn more how ticks affect cats, please visit this page in the PetMD health library.
Symptoms and Types
Ticks may be visibly present on the skin of the animal, especially as they grow. Ticks have a hard backed shield and can be felt as small bumps during a palpation (touch examination) of the skin, or during regular petting. There may also be other symptoms present if a tick borne disease develops.
Ticks are attracted to hosts for the warmth, presence of carbon dioxide on the skin, and other associated odors that the host gives off. Animals acquire ticks by being in direct physical contact with environments that harbor ticks (e.g., high grass areas, wooded areas).
The skin will be inspected to look for ticks or tick feeding cavities, and laboratory tests will be ordered to review the blood for blood borne illnesses or other tick related illnesses that may have developed.
The removal of ticks is done on an outpatient basis and is performed immediately upon observing them on the animal's body.
Living and Management
Wash the animal's skin thoroughly to prevent local inflammation or a secondary infection.
To avoid contact with ticks, avoid environments that may harbor ticks, such as wooded areas. Maintained yards are less likely to encourage ticks. The tick does not jump, so it depends on long grass, shrubs, etc, to latch onto passing animals. Free roaming animals are most at risk, and should be checked regularly to prevent long term contact with ticks. The longer the tick stays in contact with the animal, the more likely the risk of disease transmission.