We all have pulled many ticks off of dogs and while mildly satisfying, it’s mostly gross. While you never want any type of tick to make a home on your dog’s body, on the West Coast it is the Western blacklegged tick that carries Lyme Disease, and therefore the one you need to be most cautious of. Juvenile ticks love leaf litter, logs, branches, and the bases of trees, while adult ticks typically post up on shrubs or tall grasses to look for hosts. Unlike the East Coast, where these vectors typically hang out in backyards, ticks here are particularly abundant in wooded areas with close-packed Pacific madrone, Douglas-fir, or oak trees.
Sadly, Lyme season in California is year-round. However, the highest risk for Lyme is in the spring and summer because there is a profusion of juvenile ticks (nymphs) which are the most virulent. The good news is that if a Lyme-infected tick does happen to bite your or your pup it takes at least 24 hours (and generally 36-48) for the bacteria to travel from the tick’s gut to their mouth and into their host’s blood. Which means that tick checks after every walk and hike with your dog can be very effective!
Ticks will hang out anywhere on your pet, but especially between the toes, around the eyelids, in their armpits and groin, ears, and under their collars. Just run your fingers through their hairs with light pressure to see if you can feel any bumps. (A headlamp is a very useful tool to have for a tick check!) If you do find an attached tick you can use a good pair of fine-point tweezers to grasp the tick’s head as close to your dog’s skin as possible, then gently and steadily pull it out in a straight motion. Be sure to check afterwards that you have removed the tick’s head. Dispose of a live tick by dropping it in alcohol, flushing it down the toilet, or putting it in a sealed
bag or container. Afterwards remember to wash the dog’s wound and your hands.
There are many different tick preventatives available, both topical and oral. Do not assume that whatever flea preventative your dog takes will also work on ticks. SCRUF is a fan of Wondercide, as well as cedar oil mixed with water, but it’s best to speak with your vet regarding he best options for your dog.
Hopefully knowing these preventative tick tips will make outdoor time with your pet even more enjoyable. Happy hiking from your friends at SCRUF!