Tick-Borne Diseases: Are Ticks Spreading More Across the U.S.?
The number of ticks spreading more in the U.S. has been increasing steadily since 2010. In 2017 alone, there were over 21,000 reported cases. And while most dogs recover without treatment, some suffer long-term health problems like arthritis and heart damage. Now, researchers say ticks are spreading across the U.S. faster than ever — and it’s getting worse.
Lyme disease is caused by bacteria transmitted by deer, black-legged, and American dog ticks. Deer ticks live in wooded areas, and black-legged ticks live near bodies of water. Both types of ticks prefer warmer weather and tend to congregate around dogs during warm months. They usually feed on animals but sometimes bite humans. If a tick bites you, it will inject its saliva into your pet’s skin. This contains anticoagulants that prevent blood from clotting. As a result, if the tick feeds for several hours or days, it can cause an infection.
The population of ticks spreading more
Two types of tick species carry Lyme disease: black-legged ticks, deer ticks, Lone Star, and Longhorn. Blacklegged ticks prefer wooded areas, while deer ticks prefer grassy areas. In addition, deer ticks tend to feed during the day, while black-legged ticks feed at night.
- Blacklegged ticks are active year-round, but peak activity occurs from May through September. During this period, they seek out warm-blooded hosts such as birds, rodents, and small mammals. When feeding, they attach themselves to their host’s skin and wait until the next meal. Once connected, they begin to suck blood from the host. If you find a tick on your dog’s body, remove it carefully so as not to puncture its mouthparts. Then wash the area thoroughly with soap and water.
Blacklegged ticks spread Lyme disease across the East Coast and Midwest. In recent years, there has been a dramatic increase in cases of Lyme disease in New York City, where it had never been reported before. This increase coincides with the expansion of black-legged tick populations into the city.
- Deer ticks are active year-round. However, they do not usually become engorged until late summer or early fall. After attaching themselves to a host, they remain motionless for several days before beginning to feed. Unlike black-legged ticks, deer ticks do not require a warm-blooded host to survive. Instead, they feed on vegetation, including leaves, twigs, and bark. Ticks usually bite around dusk and dawn, and most bites happen between April and November.
- Lone Star Ticks are moving northward. These ticks have been found in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. While they are not known to transmit diseases, they can be carriers of other pathogens. In addition to Lyme disease, these ticks may carry Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, and Colorado Tick Fever.
- Longhorned Ticks can carry Babesia microti, which causes babesiosis, a potentially fatal illness. The most common symptom of babesiosis is flu-like symptoms, followed by chills, fatigue, headache, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and low platelet count. In addition, dogs who develop babesiosis often show signs of depression, loss of appetite, weakness, and weight loss.
Ticks spread diseases that cause allergies, infectious diseases, and even death in dogs. They’re especially dangerous because ticks carry Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, tularemia, and tick paralysis.
Dogs living where ticks are common should be treated regularly with a tick control product. The most effective treatment is a topical application called Advantage Multi Plus (imidacloprid 10%/ tixametril 5%). This product kills adult ticks within 24 hours and prevents them from laying eggs. In addition, use insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or para-menthane-diol.
Make sure to keep your dog indoors and apply insect repellent. Insect repellents containing DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) are effective against both black-legged and deer ticks.
There are many different types of tick control products available. Some are topical sprays, others are oral drops, and some are collars. Various product application methods include brushing, dipping, spraying, and pouring.
Some products work better than others. Ask your vet for recommendations. Also, ask your veterinarian about the best type of tick control product for your dog.
If you see a tick on your dog, remove it carefully using tweezers. Wash the area with soap and water, then inspect it closely for other ticks. Remove them all.
Deer are a significant source of ticks.
Deer are a significant source of tick bites, especially in the Northeast. Deer are the most common animal host for ticks in North America. And while people tend to think of ticks as pests, they play a vital role in nature. They help control insect populations, recycle nutrients, and keep forests healthy.
In the United States, deer are abundant throughout most states except Hawaii, Alaska, and parts of Arizona and New Mexico. However, the number of deer varies greatly depending on the region. For example, the average deer population in the Midwest is about 15 animals per square mile. But in the Southeast, it’s much lower – just 3.5 deer per square mile.
The reason behind this difference is simple: deer are a significant food source for many different types of ticks. Deer provide a substantial amount of nutrition for some species of ticks. So, as deer numbers go up, do the numbers of ticks. This relationship holds even in areas where deer aren’t native.
This trend isn’t limited to the United States either. For example, a study conducted in Germany found that the presence of white-tailed deer increased the total number of ticks collected on vegetation. Researchers believe deer eat more grass and shrubs, growing ticks’ habitat.
As deer populations grow, so do tick populations. And since deer are such a big part of the ecosystem, forest fragmentation and biodiversity loss can lead to larger tick populations. As a result, deer become less effective at controlling insects and plant pathogens.
Climate change increases ticks.
Climate change is affecting tick populations around the world. A study published earlier this month found that climate change could lead to increased tick populations in some parts of North America. But there are many uncertainties surrounding the topic.
Tick populations are already increasing because of climate change. This is especially true in areas with milder winters and longer summers. As temperatures rise, ticks thrive better and spread faster. In addition, warmer weather helps ticks survive during winter months.
Much research is still needed to understand how climate change affects ticks, including whether it increases or decreases their numbers. For example, researchers don’t know what impact rising temperatures will have on tick population dynamics. They also do not understand how rainfall changes affect tick survival.
But one thing is clear: climate change is affecting tick populations. And that’s something we should all keep an eye out for.
Reduce the risk of your dog getting ticks.
So what can we do to reduce the risk of getting bitten by a tick? First, you need to understand how ticks work. Unlike mosquitoes, which bite people and transmit viruses, ticks feed primarily on smaller mammals. Deer are one of the main hosts of ticks in the United States.
There are several types of ticks, each carrying different diseases. Some of the most common include Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Tularemia, Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis, and Powaskan Virus.
Symptoms include fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, lameness, depression, and swollen joints. Your vet can test your pet for Lyme disease. If your pet tests positive, it will need antibiotics to treat the condition.
Dogs are especially vulnerable because they cannot fight off these diseases. And since most tick bites occur during the summer when temperatures are warm, ticks thrive in warmer climates. The good news is that there are ways to protect yourself and your dog from ticks. However, protecting your dog from ticks requires vigilance. Here are some tips:
- Keep your dog inside at night. If he must go outside, ensure he wears a collar and I.D. tag.
- Check your yard daily for ticks. Use a flashlight to look under logs, rocks, brush piles, and leaf litter. Look for ticks attached to grass or plants.
- Inspect your dog’s body after walks. Make sure his ears, head, neck, belly, back, legs, and tail are free of ticks.
- Brush your dog thoroughly before bedtime.
- Apply an insect repellent containing DEET to exposed skin and clothing. Be careful not to get this spray into your eyes.
- Don’t let your dog run loose in tall grass. He could pick up ticks while playing.
- Clean up after your dog. For example, scrubbing his feet will help prevent him from picking up ticks.
- Change your dog’s flea and tick prevention every month.
- Bathe your dog once a week.
- Get rid of old tires, woodpiles, and junk piles around your home. These attract rodents, which may harbor ticks.
- If your pet does contract Lyme disease, seek veterinary care right away. Symptoms usually appear within ten days of exposure to infected ticks.
If you suspect a tick has bitten your pet, take them to the vet immediately. Never try to pull a tick out yourself. Doing so can cause serious injury to your pet.
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