By Vanessa Vandersande DVM
California is a great place for ticks to live since temperate climates don’t force the tick to go dormant or the winter. Walks at Central park or Placerita Canyon Nature Center are one of the great joys of living in Santa Clarita, but you don’t want to come back from the park with extra eight legged pets!
Ticks are a very resilient and amazing organism. They are found in the taxonomic class Arachnida. There are many species of ticks. Some are hard ticks from the family Ixodidae, soft ticks in the family Argasidae, and some can only be found in certain parts of the world. Most ticks have a three stage life cycle which includes the larva, nymph and adult. Each life cycle will generally feed on a mammal or bird.
So now that you feel itchy and crawly all over, I bet you’d like to know how to protect yourself!
A common misconception about ticks is that they jump onto their host from trees. Ticks are actually incapable of jumping; they don’t have the anatomy for it. A tick will spend his night curled up in some leaf litter absorbing moisture. When the day begins, the tick climbs up a bush, never more than three feet in the air and starts waving around his two front legs. This is called questing. The legs have sensors on them that detect host odors and carbon dioxide. When a host walks by and brushes against the ticks bush, the tick hops on. In an animal, the tick burrows in and begins feeding. Left undisturbed, it will feed for 3-14 days and drop off. In the human, the tick will walk up the clothes until it finds a bare spot of skin and then attach. The first bare spot is often the human’s neck, so this leads us to the common misconception that ticks drop from trees.
It is essential to remove a tick as soon as you find it. You must remove the head with the tick, because many diseases are found in the ticks’ saliva. If you are not confident, have your doctor or vet help you. An excellent product to help keep the ticks off a human is Deep Woods Off. A variety of excellent and satisfying tick killing products to protect your pet are available from your vet. Our current favorite is Bravecto, as it protects up to 3 months with one dose, and it’s water-proof!
It may be tempting to purchase the many pet tick treatments that are available at the supermarket. Be forewarned that these products have been shown to be much less efficient than the products that are available from your vet. Also, it is extremely important that you NEVER use a product that is formulated for a dog on a cat. Cats are not little dogs and some tick products for dogs will kill your cat.