Ticks are common all over the United States in many sizes and varieties. The most common tick that is found locally here in Arizona is the brown dog tick. Many people do not realize this, but a tick is not an insect. It is actually an arachnid, just like spiders. They have 8 legs, which helps to differentiate them from other small insects.
There are four life stages of ticks: egg, six-legged larva, eight-legged nymph and adult. After a tick hatches from the egg it must eat blood during every remaining stage of its life to survive. This means that a tick may survive for up to three years if it is able to complete a full life cycle. However, most ticks die due to inability to find a host for its next feeding. Ticks can feed on a many different creatures including mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians. This includes your pets, of course!
A tick finds its host by detecting body odors, breath, body heat, moisture and vibrations of animals in their surroundings. Often, when not on a host, a tick is "questing" for a host. Questing means that the tick is resting on the tips of grass and shrubbery and just waiting for a potential host to brush past so the tick can climb on. Some ticks will latch on immediately; others will search for a spot where the skin is thinner.
In Arizona, we don't have to worry about ticks as much as in other parts of the country, and when we do see ticks it's mainly confined to monsoon season due to the increase in moisture. It's important to check your pets regularly for ticks. Look in places the ticks like to hide. These spots are usually deep under the fur, and can often be near the ears, the armpits and the toes. Ticks love warm, hidden spots where the skin is thinner.
If you see ticks on your pets you can simply remove them if there are not too many. You can also use a topical tick product. Your trusted veterinary professional can recommend a specific brand based on his/her experience, however most topical tick products work similarly. To remove a tick you can use your fingers or a pair of tweezers and grasp it very close to the skin. Then pull gently and steadily until it comes free from the skin. There may be a small wound where the tick was attached, but it will heal quickly.
Ticks do carry a number of diseases that can be transmitted to your pet. If your pet has had a lot of ticks it may be a good idea to have a test run to check for tick borne diseases. This simple test can be done at most any animal care provider facility and help you determine if your pet needs any treatment.