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A Banner Year for Ticks
Let's face it, 2012 was a banner year for ticks. And as we hit the road this summer, many of us will be in unfamiliar places and environments. So even if you normally don’t have to worry about ticks, if you travel at all this summer, you need to be especially aware of ticks with both your family and your dogs and cats.
It was a warm winter, and this usually means more bugs the following summer. But according to experts, weather isn’t the only factor.
Disease-carrying ticks will be on the prowl in a big way this year, and one expert says it's not the strangely mild winter, but rather, acorn numbers, that will lead to a spike in tick bites in 2012.
The number of acorns that drop from oak trees varies from year to year. In 2010, acorns were bountiful, creating a spike in ticks' preferred host, the white-footed mouse. "We had a boom in acorns, followed by a boom in mice. And now, on the heels of one of the smallest acorn crops we've ever seen, the mouse population is crashing," explains Richard S. Ostfeld, PhD, a disease ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York.
"This spring, there will be a lot of Borrelia burgdorferi–infected black-legged ticks in our forests looking for a blood meal," he adds.
With mice in decline, they're looking for something—or someone—else to latch onto…like us. (
Keep Ticks Away from Your RV or Tent
Whatever the reason, ticks are plentiful. You need to be especially vigilant; even if you use a prescription on your dog for ticks, the dogs can still carry these ticks into the RV or tent.
• Vacuum your RV on a regular basis, especially areas where your pets spend time. This will also help prevent the spread of fleas.
• Keep your site mowed in order to prevent ticks from waiting in tall grassy areas to latch onto your pet. Don’t hesitate to ask the campground to mow your site if grass gets long.
• Keep your pets up to date on flea and tick medications, which should be purchased at your local veterinarian’s office.
• Regularly check your pets for any bugs or signs of bites, especially after they spend time outside and in wooded areas.
One of the major problems with ticks is that you and your dog or cat can contract Lyme Disease. The type of tick that causes Lyme Diseaseis very small. Often the culprits are deer ticks, not the larger dog ticks. Here is a photo of the size of a deer tick at various stages:
Lyme disease, or Lyme borreliosis, is an emerging infectious disease caused by at least three species of bacteria belonging to the genus Borrelia. The disease is named after the town of Lyme, Connecticut, where a number of cases were identified in 1975. Although Allen Steere realized that Lyme disease was a tick-borne disease in 1978, the cause of the disease remained a mystery until 1981, when B. burgdorferi was identified by Willy Burgdorfer.
Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in the Northern Hemisphere. Borrelia is transmitted to humans by the bite of infected ticks belonging to a few species of the genus Ixodes ("hard ticks"). Early symptoms may include fever, headache, fatigue, depression, and a characteristic circular skin rash called erythema migrans (EM). Left untreated, later symptoms may involve the joints, heart, and central nervous system. In most cases, the infection and its symptoms are eliminated by antibiotics, especially if the illness is treated early. Delayed or inadequate treatment can lead to the more serious symptoms, which can be disabling and difficult to treat. (Wikipedia)
My dog, Lilac, contracted Lyme Disease years ago. I had to give her a month of antibiotics. She still tests positive for it every time she goes to the vet. But, because it has been treated once, there isn’t much more to do now. In fact, Lyme Disease can be debilitating in people too, one of my secretaries had it years ago and she was hospitalized off and on for months while they tried to fight it with antibiotics. And, closer to home, both my sister and nephew have contracted it this year. My sister got very sick, but she is better now. And, my nephew just got it at 18 months old, but they caught it early, so he hasn’t gotten too sick. But, he does have to be on high-dose antibiotics for a month.
According to the North Carolina Veterinary Association, there are some simple things you can do to prevent Lyme Disease in your dog.
• Tick-killing collars.
• Topical “spot-on” medication, such as Frontline® and Advantix®. Always follow your veterinarian’s instructions for using these products, as they can be harmful to cats.
• Vaccines that generate antibodies to kill bacteria while they are still in the tick.
• Brushing and grooming pets to find ticks before they transmit the disease (transmission typically occurs after the tick has been on the body for about 18-24 hours).
• Avoiding areas that are prone to have ticks, like woodsy areas, brushes, shrubs and wild small plants.
• Carefully removing ticks with tweezers close to your pet's skin. Be sure to not twist the tweezers so the entire tick can be removed. If the tick’s head and body detach, with the head still in your pet’s body, the tick can still release bacteria.
So, tread carefully in the woods and in tall grass. And, most important of all, check your pets and yourself every night. Don’t skip this step. Recently, I found one that had barely implanted itself on my four year old. They don’t usually transmit Lyme Disease until they have been imbedded for 24-48 hours. So, early detection is key.
Do you travel with your Dog? Here is a new Facebook Group founded by Julee Meltzer which is dedicated to Camping and RVing with Dogs. Please join us!