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The Tick - Part One
Introducing the Tick
Ticks are wingless parasites that dine on blood. Contrary to popular belief, they do not drop down from trees or jump from host to host as if playing a game of leapfrog. Ticks get around strictly by crawling. Understanding ticks and learning how to control them is crucial to pet owners. First, it is important to note that ticks are much more of a dog problem than a cat problem mainly because of grooming.

Since cats seem to be able to groom every part of themselves with their sandpaper tongues, they are much more likely to remove ticks. In the unlikely event that a cat does contract a tick-related disease, it's hard to diagnose because the way the disease manifests in cats varies from disorientation to not eating or to vomiting.

A Tick's Life

Ticks develop in four stages: egg, larva, nymph and full adulthood. The body of the host is the usual mating ground for an adult male and female tick. The female then gorges on the host's blood to her heart's content then drops off the host and lays her eggs in the habitat ... that can be in your backyard or on your living room carpet. Some female ticks die after depositing their eggs, which can number in the thousands. The eggs then hatch in anywhere from 21 to 50 days. After hatching, the larva lives in the surrounding vegetation waiting for a small host like a rodent or a bird. Once the larva finds a host, it feeds for a few days, drops off and molts into a nymph. The nymph then feeds on a slightly larger host such as a possum, skunk, rabbit or raccoon for anywhere from several days to a week. After it has had its fill, it falls off and molts into a full adult. At this age of maturation, the tick is able to feed on larger animals such as Great Danes, White-Tailed deer, such.

Let's keep in mind that this is a very general overview of a tick's development. It does not encapsulate the rapidity of development of all species of ticks.

Though ticks, in fact, don't fly and get around by crawling rather slowly, it's quite easy for them to find a host. Not only do ticks respond to a host's release of carbon dioxide and just plain old body heat, they also crawl into grass, low bushes and weeds and simply wait for a host to brush up against the vegetation. When this occurs, they simply detach themselves from the vegetation and latch on to the host and crawl until they find the right place to latch on to and feed. Unfortunately for us and for our pets, it's really that simple.


As we mentioned earlier, there are several different species of ticks. However, we will touch on the three major species, which have the propensity to affect our households the most. In the United States, the two most closely related species, the Black Legged Tick (also known as Deer Tick) found in the Eastern U.S. and the Western Black Legged Tick found on the West Coast. Both have been identified for carrying and transmitting Lyme Disease. The abundance of these species is directly linked to the abundance of their primary host in any given area, the white-tailed deer. These deer ticks are rather small. The larva is the size of a poppy seed and an unengorged adult is about 1/16 of an inch long. They're smaller than the common American Dog Tick, which unengorged is about 1/8 of an inch. The American Dog Tick does not transmit Lyme disease but can transmit the agent of Rocky Mountain spotted fever to dogs, cats and humans. It can also cause tick paralysis and transmit an often-fatal blood parasite to cats.

Part Two: Tick-Related Ailments

Part Three: Removing Ticks

Part Four: Preventing Ticks

This helpful tip came from a HealthyPetNet newsletter! Would you like to get this useful pet information through e-mail each month? Newsletters are free and often cover many important pet-related topics. Click here for more information!

Special Note: Although every effort has been made to present healthy products and useful information to support your pets' health, the products and information contained within this website are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The contents of this site are not meant as a substitute for consultation with a trained veterinarian. If you are concerned about the health of your pets, you should ask your veterinarian for proper guidance suited to the specific condition of your pets. The owners of this website accept no liability for any consequences resulting from the use of products and/or information provided through this site. Please use your discretion when attending to your pets' health.
Special thanks to Fintan Darragh, Rich Bensen, Maggie, Jiji, and Mary Crissman for providing our pet pictures!
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