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Ticks and Their Diseases Can Impact Your Pets

Ticks not only look unpleasant but they can cause serious illness in many pets.
It seems like almost every day we hear of a new tick-borne disease, or even new types of ticks.

Once “just” a nuisance, ticks are now documented to carry many serious diseases, endangering everyone or everything they attach to, including your pets.

Bad and Getting Worse

Lyme disease is one of the most serious of these ailments and was one of the first to gain widespread attention. It impacts humans, dogs and, to a lesser extent, cats. Most prevalent in the New England states, it has been documented in half of all counties in the U.S.

Although Lyme disease is less common west of the Mississippi, don’t relax if you live there. Rocky Mountain tick fever was first diagnosed in the area for which it’s named, but it’s now been verified throughout the country. Again, it can sicken and in some cases kill dogs and, though less likely, cats.

The complete list of tick-borne diseases is frightening. Canine Ehrlichiosis and Canine Babesiosis are two you may not have heard of. Many of the above also can harm cats, but felines also have tularemia and tick paralysis. Horses can be hurt by many of these and others.

And it’s not your imagination – the issue is getting worse.

They're Spreading!

Although many of these diseases have likely caused problems for years, diagnosis is getting better and owners are more likely to have a pet diagnosed and treated. But ticks are also spreading their ranges and there are even reports of new tick species (and their diseases) entering the country by riding along with imported animals or when a traveler returns to the country. The Asian longeared tick is one of the latest examples of the latter.

Ticks are also expanding their ranges within the U.S. Urban and suburban sprawl is placing many people and their pets in reach of these parasites. Parks and backyards are large enough to harbor mice, but usually not large enough to host fox and other predators that keep mice in check. As a result, mice populations can increase and, with them, ticks.

Have a Plan

So, if you should assume a pet that goes outdoors is possible, even likely, to contact ticks. What should you do? Here are some thoughts:

• Get in the habit of inspecting your pet when he or she returns, or at least at the end of the day or (if you have a night prowler) in the morning. A quick scan or brushing to look for and remove ticks is the easiest way to take an important step.

• Talk to your vet about what would work for your pet in your area. Sure, there are a lot of tick and flea products on the market, almost too many. Finding one that works for your situation is not always easy. Some may even cause problems with some pets. A professional in your area is a good place to start.

• If you’re looking for anti-tick treatments, consider products that can be used on pet beds and other locations, along with others for the pet itself. Treatment for bedding or other items in the pet’s environment can be effective in killing or “disabling” ticks on your pet, as well as those that might decide to wander around your house looking for other hosts.

In many areas of the country, tick problems are getting worse but there are more solutions and better information than ever before.