The Tick TalkThree American Dog Ticks (Dermacentor variabilis) isolated on white background.

‘Tis the season for ticks in Wisconsin. These skin parasites can attach and feed on the blood of your pets. The bite is generally not painful, but the tick can transmit diseases to your pet.

Ticks have a complicated life cycle. The timeline of egg to adult actually takes two years! They move through four life stages and must ingest blood between each stage.



Egg – Eggs are laid in vegetation
Larvae (Seed Tick) – Find their first host (usually a rodent or bird), stay attached for a few days, then release and fall onto the ground
Nymph – This stage lives in an inactive state through the winter and become active again in the spring. They find their second host and feed again. They eventually detach and shed their skin as they enter the adult phase.
Adult – Adults engage in “quest” behavior, meaning that they crawl up to the tips of plants with their legs extended and wait for new hosts onto which they can grasp. Once they have had their fill of a blood meal for 1-2 weeks, they fall off again. At this point, the males die and the females lay eggs in vegetation completing the cycle. Adults who do not find hosts can survive the winter by hunkering down in leaf piles.


The best method of disease control is prevention via the use of products like Frontline, NexGard, and Seresto collars. When ticks attach, it takes many hours before disease is transmitted, so another good method of prevention is to check your pet for ticks daily and remove them.  You can bring your pet to us to remove ticks, or you can do it at home. To remove a tick, wet the tick with rubbing alcohol and use tweezers or a tick twister to grasp the tick’s head as closely as possible to your pet’s skin. After grasping, you can gently pull the tick out. Do not grasp a tick by its hind end because that can squeeze the contents of the tick into your pet, and there is a good chance that you will leave the head embedded in your pet’s skin. Kill the tick by placing it in a container of rubbing alcohol before disposing of it. It is very likely that the site of tick attachment will appear red and irritated. This irritation usually goes away within a week, but please let us know if it does not as it may have become infected.

We recommend that our canine patients have bloodwork done yearly to test for the following tick diseases: Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis, and Ehrlichiosis. As always, if you ever have any questions about your pet’s health, please give us a call.



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