With the pleasant weather we have been having, most of us have been lured outside to take advantage of it with our furry friends. Unfortunately, we are not the only ones who savor the warmer climate. Fleas are common knowledge, but did you know ticks are another blood-feeding, external parasite to watch out for?

You don’t need to hike in the rural woods to have a tick attach itself to your unlucky companion, either; they can be picked up in urban areas, as well. Most active during the spring and summer months, ticks reside in tall grass, brush or wooded areas and attach to whoever happens to enter their territory.

Hidden dangers

Ticks are visible to the naked eye, although dogs and cats with heavier coats may require more searching to locate one. It is a good idea to check your pet regularly for these stowaways every time your pet has been outside in areas where ticks are prevalent.

Dogs seem to be most susceptible to ticks infestations. Ticks are most commonly seen close to the head, neck, legs and ear areas, but if the infestation is severe, they can be found anywhere on the body.

If you happen to spot a tick, it is important to be cautious when removing it, as you want to be sure you remove the entire being — including the biting head or other imbedded body parts — immediately. If you become queasy with the thought of removing a wiggly, blood-filled arachnid from your pet (like I do!), then bring your pet to your veterinarian’s office for them to remove it.

It is important to know that ticks can transmit Lyme disease. Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that affects dogs, cats, humans and other mammals. Lyme disease is acquired when bitten by a tick and is primarily carried by the deer tick.

Clinical signs include depression, swelling of the lymph nodes, loss of appetite, fever, lameness and swollen, painful joints. Renal failure can also be a possible consequence of Lyme disease.

Without proper treatment, this disease can pose serious health complications, so we recommend consulting with your veterinarian to have blood tests performed to rule it out after tick interaction.

Preventative measures

Prevention is key in avoiding tick infestations. Topical medications that you apply once monthly, such as Vectra, are easy to use and are typically very effective.

Oral medications, such as Sentinel or Trifexis, are primarily used to prevent flea, internal parasite (hookworm, roundworm, whipworm) and heartworm infestations, so topical tick prevention is still necessary if your dog will be exposed to ticks.

Using two preventative measures can be safe; however, it is advised before starting any medication for your pet to discuss its use with your veterinarian and read all labels carefully to ensure you are using the correct product.

Be advised that treatments safe for dogs can be potentially toxic to cats, especially products that contain permethrin. Permethrin is found in many topical flea treatments for canines.

Toxicity occurs when a cat is accidentally dosed with a canine flea preventative medication or licks the treated area on a dog before it is dry. This behavior can sometimes be seen in multi-pet households, where the cat and dog are very social with each other. In most cases, it is advised to keep cat and dog household members separate for at least 24 hours after application.

MEGAN L. FOUCH is the office manager at the Madison Park Veterinary Hospital (www.madisonparkvet.com). To comment on this column, write to MPTimes@nwlink.com.