Ticks 101

Ticks 101

You’re not the only one who thinks that your cat or dog is perfect. Ticks consider them ideal hosts, but this type of guest only causes discomfort and possibly serious illness.

Ticks have unique host-detecting abilities and a resiliency that makes them difficult to avoid completely. Fortunately, ticks can be eliminated and prevented when you’re armed with the right tools.

What Are Ticks?

Ticks are tiny bloodsucking external parasites that feed off humans, pets, livestock, and wild animals. As of a 2010 checklist, 896 tick species were known world-wide, with about 90 of these occupying the continental United States (along with biting ambassadors to Hawaii and Alaska). They belong to the same zoological class as spiders and scorpions, but any similarity ends there.

Ticks are mostly found in habitats like forests, grassy fields, and moist woodlands, all of which support a nice selection of vertebrate hosts. Flightless and slow moving, ticks “quest” for a suitable host by waiting at the tips of grass or leaves with their arms extended, ready to grab on when the animal passes by. Most ticks feed on a different host for each of the biting life phases (6-legged larva, and 8-legged nymphs and adults); but one species, the brown dog tick, can build up populations in homes or yards as all stages can feed on dogs.

Why Ticks Are Harmful

Ticks feed off their hosts by burying their mouthparts into the skin and ingesting blood. They secrete saliva with anti-clotting properties into the bite site, paving the way for pathogens to invade the host’s system and causing itchy irritation. Worse, ticks can transmit potentially devastating illnesses like Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and anaplasmosis.

At the very least, ticks make your pet uncomfortable. At worst, they can spread potentially fatal illnesses to your cat or dog, and even your family. Humans are as much at risk for tick-borne diseases as animals are, underscoring the importance of tick elimination and prevention.

How to Spot a Tick on Your Cat or Dog

A fully blood-engorged tick resembles a grey to brown corn kernel or bean and is fairly easy to spot, but ticks typically don’t become noticeably engorged until they’ve been feeding for several days. By then, an infection could already be working its way through your pet’s system, so you want to be on the lookout for ticks to eliminate them as soon as possible.

Detecting a tick attached to a long or heavily coated cat or dog can be a challenge, especially since ticks come in many sizes, shapes, and colors. The tiny deer tick, notorious carrier of Lyme disease, is the size of a poppy seed and is easily overlooked even on human hosts. Adding a tick inspection to your dog’s daily grooming routine is crucial to his well-being. For example, run your hand over the coat and check any bumps you may feel and follow up by using a flea comb to get unattached ticks.. An allover approach with a product like Bio Spot Active Care™ Flea & Tick Shampoo kills adult ticks, as well as fleas of all life stages, in one bath.

How to Eliminate Ticks

Remove a tick from your dog as soon as you detect it, but keep in mind that there’s a right way and a wrong way to do so. Ticks actually glue themselves to the host’s skin while feeding and can be tough to remove. To keep from potentially injecting more of the tick’s contents into the skin, follow these do’s and don’ts for proper tick removal:


  • Use a pair of fine-tipped tweezers to extract a tick.
  • Grasp the tick’s head as close to the pet’s skin as is possible, and pull with a slow, steady movement directly away from the skin to get both the body and head out. (The pet’s skin will often stretch up a bit before the tick finally comes lose.)
  • Avoid squeezing or rupturing the tick’s body to prevent potentially infectious body fluids from touching your pet’s (or your) skin.
  • Flush the extracted tick down the toilet.
  • Apply antiseptic to the bite site.


  • Squeeze the ticks body.
  • Hold a hot match tip to the tick.
  • Pierce the tick with a needle.
  • “Smother” the tick with substances like petroleum jelly.
  • Douse the tick with gasoline.
  • Handle the tick with your bare hands.

How to Keep Your Pet Tick-Free

How do you keep your cat or dog free of ticks? By covering the bases where ticks are commonly found: your dog, your home, and your yard. Take the guesswork out of your strategy with Bio Spot Active Care™ 3-Step protection.

Step 1: Treat Your Dog

  • Prevent adult ticks and their offspring from plaguing your dog with Bio Spot Active Care™ Flea & Tick Spot On® products. The Smart Shield® Applicator is specially designed to easily part your dog’s fur and get down to the skin, spreading through the skin’s oils and killing ticks and fleas of every life stage for up to one month—all while keeping your hands clean.

Step 2: Treat Your Home

  • Eliminate ticks that have invaded your home by first washing pet bedding in hot water.
  • Kill ticks hiding in carpets and upholstery by treating with Bio Spot Active Care™ Flea & Tick Carpet Powder or Bio Spot Active Care™ Flea & Tick Carpet Spray. Bio Spot Active Care™ Flea & Tick Carpet Spray will help prevent future tick activity for up to seven months. Deter ticks from hiding in cracks and crevices of your floors and walls with Bio Spot Active Care™ Flea & Tick Home Spray.
  • For major outbreaks, use Bio Spot Active Care™ Indoor Fogger to protect your home from ticks.

Step 3: Treat Your Yard

  • Start by mowing your lawn and discarding the clippings.
  • Use Bio Spot Active Care™ Yard & Garden Spray on your grass, shrubs, flowers, and trees, helping to keep them tick-free for up to four weeks.

Bio Spot Active Care and Smart Shield are trademarks of Farnam Companies, Inc. Spot On is a registered trademark of Wellmark International.

Did You Know?

14. A recent study suggests that dogs were domesticated 32,000 years ago.