Ticks and tick-borne diseases are present in every state of the country, although the prevalence varies regionally. Ticks are arachnids, putting them in the same family as mites and spiders. They have several life stages and all except the egg feed on blood.
Due to the nature of their blood meals, ticks transmit several diseases that affect people and pets. Different species of ticks carry different diseases, so tick identification can be helpful in ruling out disease processes. Some of the more common tick-borne diseases in our area are Ehrlichiosis, Lyme disease, Hemobartonella, and tick paralysis.
Ticks attach to humans and pets as they walk through grass or past foliage that the ticks are resting on, so it is important to check ourselves and our pets anytime we are out in wooded areas. Ticks can be manually removed, but it is not ideal to use bare fingers, as squeezing the tick forces more fluid from the tick into the skin, which encourages disease transmission. The simplest way to remove a tick is to grasp it near the head with tweezers and pull steadily until it lets go.
Unfortunately, ticks can also set up residence in our homes. Tick infestations are very difficult to resolve and often requires consultation with a professional exterminator to eliminate the population. Home infestations can also be associated with recent landscaping, as the ticks may reside in new mulch and plants.
There are several good products to protect our pets from ticks. It should be noted that not all flea products will also protect against ticks. Furthermore, some of the most effective flea products are not tick controllers. Consult your veterinarian as to whether or not your pet’s tick risk merits a preventative and which one to choose.
Signs of tick-borne disease vary but may include weakness and lethargy, pale gums, and shifting joint pain and/or fever. Please have your pet examined if they are ill and let your veterinarian know if you have had any past tick problems.
Lyme disease (Borreliosis) is preventable by vaccination or by avoiding tick exposure. Contracting Lyme disease from ticks in our immediate area is very uncommon at this time. In balancing the need for vaccination against the relatively small risks of vaccination, we have decided not to recommend vaccination of dogs for this disease.
For those dogs who travel to the Northeast coastal states or Wisconsin where Lyme disease is prevalent, we do recommend vaccination. You may also consider vaccination if your pet spends a lot of time in the woods in Florida or in other states.