New York is under assault from ticks and tick-borne illnesses, which not only affect people, but our four-legged family members, too. According to the CDC, there have been more reports of tick-borne illnesses here in New York than in any other state. That’s why our animal hospital firmly advocates for year-round tick protection.
Why Ticks are Hard to Control
Their small size makes them hard to detect, and their primary feeding sources, deer and rodents, are growing in population. Therefore, the tick population is also growing, making the diseases they transmit far more prevalent.
Any Ticks in Particular I Need to Worry About?
New York State has three species of ticks that are more common than others: the blacklegged tick (or deer tick), the American dog tick, and the Lone Star tick.
Deer ticks are the only species that can carry and transmit Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. Deer ticks can also transmit the parasites that cause babesiosis, and the bacteria that causes anaplasmosis.
How do Dogs Get Lyme Disease?
If a deer tick is carrying the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria and they bite your pet, they can transmit that bacteria into your pet’s bloodstream. This sets Lyme disease infection in motion, though it takes about 36 to 48 hours for the tick to feed before this can happen. If you manage to find a tick on your pet that wasn’t there an hour ago, chances are they’re safe.
Lyme disease affects both humans and companion animals. Keeping your pet protected from this disease means also protecting yourself and the rest of your family.
What are the Symptoms of Lyme Disease?
Think your pet may have been infected? Look for these signs:
- Swollen joints
- Decreased appetite
It might take weeks or even months for clinical signs to show. Luckily, Lyme disease is treatable and in time your pet should be able to recover. Just be extra careful and let us know if your pet seems to be ill and you believe it might be tick-related.
How to Minimize Tick Infestations and Prevent Tick-Borne Illness
Because ticks are so hard to control the best defense is to keep them at bay as much as possible. This includes:
- Staying on cleared paths when hiking through wooded areas
- Wearing light-colored clothing (so you can spot ticks more easily) that has been treated with Permethrin
- Using insect repellent that contains DEET
- Clear out leaf litter, loose branches, wood piles, and any other debris from your yard
- Keep grass short and shrubs well trimmed
- Give your dog or cat their prescribed tick preventative as directed
- Consider having your dog vaccinated for Lyme disease for extra protection
- Check yourself and your pet very carefully for ticks before returning inside
- If you have ticks on any of your clothes, throw them in the dryer and tumble them on high heat for 10-15 minutes
How to Remove a Tick
Don’t panic! Ticks can be removed safely if you take your time. Don’t try to squash it! Place your tweezers around the tick and as close to the skin as possible. Grip gently and pull slowly upward to dislodge the entire tick—body, head, mouthparts, and all. Cleanse the bite site with rubbing alcohol and/or warm, soapy water.