By Nicole Abrego

The rolling waves, cool ocean breeze, the few occasional rain showers, we San Diegans and our pets are quite spoiled when it comes to our mild winters. However, our winter season brings some uninvited guests...ticks.

What are ticks?

Ticks are eight-legged blood sucking parasites that are closely related to the arachnoid family. Unlike fleas, ticks are unable to jump and instead find their hosts by “questing”. A tick will perch themselves on leaves or branches with front arms extended and wait for a host, such as a pet or human, to pass by and they’ll latch onto their unsuspecting victim.

Once on the host, the tick will burrow and attach to the skin by hooking its head and jaw partially on the skin and will feed on the host’s blood for the next four to five days. Once the feeding is complete, the tick will detach from the host and fall off into the environment where it will either die or continue this eerie process all over again.

The Dangers Ticks Pose For Our Pets (and Ourselves)

Not only are ticks creepy, they can carry a variety of diseases that can affect not only our pets but humans as well. The most common include Lyme disease, Ehrlichia, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and more recently, Tularemia.

Lyme disease in particular can be potentially serious, especially with dogs. Symptoms include developing arthritis or lameness, lethargy, loss of appetite, and other clinical conditions. If you suspect that your pup has contracted this disease, your dog should be seen by your veterinarian immediately. Though these illnesses are uncommon in San Diego, preventative care is of the utmost importance to ensure that the disease does not experience an outbreak in our region.

So, How Do I Protect My Pet From Ticks?

Being proactive about your pet’s health and well-being is key to keeping ticks away. Be sure to check your pup and yourself for ticks after returning from a hike or being outdoors in rural areas. Ticks on cats are not as common as they are on dogs but periodically checking your cat for ticks is a good habit.

Feel along your pet’s body for small bumps or ridges that would indicate the presence of a tick. If you see a tick, remove it as quickly as possible or bring your pet to your veterinarian. Quick removal of the tick will help prevent the tick from infecting your pet with a tick-borne disease.

There are a variety of products that prevent ticks from latching onto your pet. At The Drake Center, our favorite tick-prevention product is Bravecto and it’s available for both dogs and cats. Bravecto for dogs will protect against fleas and ticks for 3 months and is given via an oral flavor tablet. Bravecto for cats is a topical liquid that is applied between the shoulder blades and will protect against fleas and ticks for 3 months.

Regular visits to The Drake Center throughout the year will help ensure that your pet is getting the tick prevention care they need to stay tick-free. Of course, all pets are different so it’s best to bring your pet in to be seen by one of our veterinarians so they can provide your pet with a prevention plan that is right for them.

Schedule an appointment to discuss tick prevention with us today and stay tick-free this winter season.