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Simple Ways to Protect Yourself and Your Pets from Ticks and Tick-Borne Diseases 

Two dogs, two cats, and one puppy sitting together against a white background.

As we emerge from spring and head into summer, spending time outdoors becomes more inviting. However, increasing time outside can also increase your chances of encountering ticks and tick-borne diseases. In Marin and Sonoma counties, ticks can be found year-round, although different species and life stages emerge at different times. 

Ticks are commonly found in grassy, brushy and wooded areas, particularly along trails. They do not fly, jump, or fall out of trees. Instead, adult ticks wait on the tips of vegetation with outstretched legs for people or animals to pass by, while nymphs are commonly found in leaf litter or on logs and downed branches. 

 One tick of particular concern is Ixodes pacificus, commonly known as the western black-legged tick or deer tick. This species can transmit the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, among other illnesses. The nymphs of Ixodes pacificus start to emerge in spring and are extremely small—about the size of a poppy seed! However, it is possible to encounter both adults and nymphs of Ixodes pacificus year-round. 

 The good news is that you can take steps to protect yourself and your pets from ticks and tick-borne diseases:   

  • Wear light-colored pants, long sleeves, and long socks whenever possible. 
  • Apply a repellent containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) to exposed skin. Follow the product instructions for safe and effective use. 
  • Avoid walking through tall grass and brush where ticks are more likely to be found. Stick to the center of trails and don’t sit on or place gear on mossy rocks, logs or in leaf litter. 
  • Thoroughly check your body for ticks for several days after being in tick habitat. Pay special attention to areas such as the scalp, behind the ears, armpits, and groin. 
  • After you come indoors, place your clothing in the dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill any ticks that may have hitched a ride on your clothes. 
  • Consult your veterinarian about the best tick prevention products for your pets.  
  • After your pets have been outdoors, inspect them for ticks. Focus on areas around the ears, neck, and between the toes.  
  • Try to keep pets out of tall grass and wooded areas where ticks are prevalent. 
  • Remove attached ticks as soon as possible using fine tipped tweezers, grasping the tick as close to your skin as possible. Slowly and steadily pull the tick up and straight out, away from your skin — do not twist or jerk the tick out. 
  • Maintain your yard by keeping the grass short and removing leaf litter, brush, and tall weeds. This reduces tick habitat around your home. 

By taking these precautions, you can significantly reduce the risk of tick bites and tick-borne diseases for both you and your pets. Enjoy the outdoors safely this season! 

Learn more about ticks and tick bite prevention at www.msmosquito.org 

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