Summertime brings out the ticks in Missouri, raising the risk of bites for humans and pets.
There are three common hard ticks in Missouri: the lone star tick, the American dog tick and the deer or black-legged tick.
Most ticks are found in woodlands, tall grasses, weeds and brushy areas where wildlife is abundant, according to officials with the Missouri Department of Conservation. They are most active from April to July but can be encountered any time of year.
Ticks feed on the blood of mammals, including humans, making it extra important to take preventive steps against a bite. A tick needs to be attached between 24 to 48 hours before it has the potential to transmit Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
Watch for flu-like symptoms or rashes to develop. The infected area often will expand from a red circle or oval to a bullseye.
“Wear clothes that make it hard for ticks to get to your skin, ‘’ said Peg Craft, Missouri Department of Conservation digital media producer. “Clothes that fit tightly around your ankles and wrists are helpful.”
Tick repellent also can be applied, but long sleeves and closed-toe shoes are the best prevention method.
“Ideally you would check your pet for ticks every day after they’ve been outdoors,” said Aubrey Silvey, humane educator for St. Joseph Animal Control and Rescue. “You’ll definitely want to check your cat if they live outdoors periodically.”
Comb through your pet’s fur with your fingers and press gently into the skin to check for bumps.
“Check in and around the ears, eyelids, under the collars, under the legs and pit areas,” said Silvey. “Between the toes is a big one and a place where they will often hide.”
There are multiple ways to prevent and treat ticks in pets with over-the-counter medications. Most need to be given monthly orally or applied as a cream to the back of the neck.
If you do find a tick, be careful removing it.
“Tweezers are usually the best route and it’s important to get the entire head,” Silvery said. “ I always tell people to consult your veterinarian.”