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Ticks as summertime hazards

Deer ticks can carry many diseases
Deer ticks can carry many diseasesScottBauer USDA

With summer comes warm weather, outdoor activities - and unfortunately for many families and their pets - exposure to ticks. Ticks are not only a nuisance and capable of feeding on your pet's blood but they can also transmit deadly diseases such as Lyme, ehrlichia and anaplasmosis.

Different ticks have different hosts for their various life stages but the bottom line is that most nymphal and adult stages will happily feast on your dog, your cat or you. While a few ticks are drought tolerant, they tend to thrive in areas with higher humidity and more precipitation. Ticks can winter over and attach to pets even in winter but they tend to be most common in the spring and fall.

You can minimize tick populations around your house by frequent mowing (so there is no tall grass for nesting mice or voles), removing leaf litter from near the house and yard and keeping brush piles away from the house and yard. Those areas make good rabbit habitat and rabbits can carry ticks too. Don't attract deer by feeding them or putting out salt blocks. Avoid planting shrubs close by your house or areas where pets and children play. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) offers some additional tips.

One of the greatest problems with ticks is that they do carry dangerous diseases. You can check prevalence maps here for what disease have been found in your area in pet dog populations. The reality is your pets may pick up ticks if they go outside. For that reason, you need to consider medications to repel and/or kill ticks when they attach to your pet.

There are many different medications available to kill or repel ticks. These medications may come as treated collars, topicals to apply monthly or oral medications. You can find sprays, powders, shampoos and dips that will all help in the fight against ticks. None of them are totally foolproof however, so you still need to check your pets frequently for any ticks.

It is an excellent idea to run a flea comb or lint roller over your pet when he comes inside. Both of those may pick up any ticks that your dog or cat has just acquired. If a tick has attached, the "tick key" has proven to be an excellent tool for removal.