Five disgusting things you need to know about ticks

Ticks can cause a number of serious health problems for you and your pet. They can also be difficult to spot and remove. Dr. Michael Dryden, a professor of veterinary parasitology at Kansas State University, sat down with radio host Steve Dale of Steve Dale’s Pet World to talk about the dangers ticks pose, and how to prevent them. (Watch the video of the interview above.)

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Storm is a healthy, special-needs Retriever mix at Jersey Animal Coalition, Inc. in South Orange, NJ.

Here are some tick facts every pet parent needs to know:

  1. Ticks can infect you and your pet with serious, possibly deadly illnesses. According to Dr. Dryden, ticks are the No. 1 disease vector in the U.S. They carry Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and many other serious illnesses.
  2. Tick populations are growing across the U.S. The past several years have seen a spike in the tick population. The spread of white-tailed deer (a tick carrier), climate change and changes in agricultural practices have all contributed.
  3. Cats are at risk too. Indoor-outdoor cats can catch cytauxzoonosis, a disease which is most often fatal, from ticks. For this and many other reasons, it’s best to keep cats indoors. If your cat has access to an outdoor enclosure or takes harnessed walks with you, talk to your vet about protecting him from ticks.
  4. Different tick species live in different regions. “There are at least nine different tick species in North America that routinely get on dogs and cats,” Dr. Dryden says. “You have to talk to your veterinarian and ask: What ticks [is your pet] going to be exposed to? What disease are they going to be exposed to? And what product is going to be most effective?”
  5. Ticks can do harm when you least expect it. Even if you’re not seeing ticks, they can still pose a threat — so be sure to talk to your vet long before “tick season” starts. Because vets see a large number of pets in your region, Dr. Dryden says, “your veterinarian is going to pick up that ticks are active long before you may.”

Tell us: Have you ever taken a tick off of your dog or cat?


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