Anyone with pets knows how determined ticks can be in the summer months, but due to the mild winter prior, ticks have become even more of a nuisance across the country. Veterinarians have seen an increase in the number of pets arriving to their door with ticks spread across their coats. An increase in ticks on pets means a potential increase in exposing ticks to their owners. Not only are ticks dangerous to pet health, but they are the harbinger of deathly diseases for humans too. Most notably, ticks are known to carry Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, but can also carry other lesser-known diseases such as Relapsing Fever and Babesiosis, all which can be debilitating and painful.
While Lyme disease is prevalent in northern states of the US and affects pet owners and pet health, the disease is found in deer ticks that live in almost all states. The deer tick, also known as the Black-legged tick, is identified to keenly bite humans in its nymphal phase, the moment just before it becomes adult, which happens in the summer months when humans are mostly outdoors. Once it becomes an adult, the percentage of humans who contract the disease from the deer tick decreases, as exposure to human donors becomes nominal. The Lyme disease bacterium is known to live in mice, squirrels and other small animals. The bacterium is transmitted among these animals, and to other animals, through the bites of ticks. Within the northeastern and north-central regions of the United States, the black-legged tick transmits Lyme disease. In the Pacific coastal United States regions, the disease is spread by the western black-legged tick. These are the only species of tick found in the United States that have been shown to transmit. Most infections to affect pet health can be passed by an infected tick to pet owners as well.
The ticks that have been prolific this season are not of the Ixodes genus, but of the Dermacentor genus. The American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis), as well as the Rocky Mountain wood tick (Dermacentor andersoni) is responsible for the transmission of Rocky Mountain spotted fever. American dog ticks are considerably bigger than that of a deer tick and have noticeable white markings on the back of the female tick. Those who become infected with Rocky Mountain spotted fever will need hospitalization, as it can be a life-threatening disease and detrimental to human and pet health conversely. Prevention of exposure relies solely on the person who is in contact with the tick. Hikers and outdoorsmen need to wear insecticides that contain DEET and apply it often to skin and clothes while outside. Wearing light colored clothes help determine if ticks are on the body and conduct a full body search once indoors. To remove ticks, use a pair of tweezers to grasp closely to the skin and pull straight up. It is of great importance that the head be removed, as it could lead to infection at the bite that will require doctor's attention. It is best to allow the tick to remain intact, as contact with the bodily fluid could contain infectious organisms. If possible, save the tick for identification, in case any symptoms appear in the days following.
With pets, monitor their coats for any signs of infestation, as well as implementing a flea and tick control regiment to discourage ticks from attaching. It is also a good idea to monitor the pet health, as fleas and ticks tend to attach to unhealthy and elderly animals. Maintaining a healthy environment for pets and their owners can ensure that both are happy and disease-free. The only way to prevent tick attachments is to avoid areas that ticks inhabit, by limiting exposure to the outdoors and animals that are infested.
Gary Pearson is an accomplished niche website developer and author.
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