Ticks are remarkable arachnids. There are many species that have adapted to survive and thrive in many environments. They will feed on many different hosts at nearly any time of year, including the cold winter months for the Blacklegged (deer) tick. But the most challenging aspect of this particular pest is the sheer number of diseases they can carry and transmit.
The problematic ticks found in southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois include the American dog (wood) tick, the Blacklegged (deer) tick, the Brown dog tick, and now even the Lone star tick according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). The range of ticks is expanding, leaving many finding ticks when they have never seen or had them before.
Ticks go through distinct stages of development. Hatched from an egg, transitioning through larval, nymph, and adult stages, a blood meal will be taken at each stage. Some ticks can take up to three years to complete their life cycle. While the American dog tick and Lone star tick may not be active in the fall and winter, the Blacklegged (deer) tick will be active anytime the weather is above freezing. In fact, the Blacklegged (deer) tick adult is most active in the cool fall months through spring, while its nymphs are active in the spring and summer.
Lyme disease is most commonly recognized, but many other diseases are carried and transmitted by ticks. Diseases such as anaplasma, ehrlichia, and babesia affect the blood cells, though in different ways depending upon the species. All diseases carried by ticks can be debilitating and life threatening. Some also have zoonotic potential, which means they can affect humans as well.
Avoidance of ticks and rapid removal if one is found is imperative. The longer the attachment period, the more likely disease could be transmitted. The CDC website has basic recommendations to help prevent tick bites, how to limit ticks in your yard, and how to remove attached ticks. There are effective tick and flea preventative options for dogs and cats. Preventatives can kill and even repel ticks depending upon the product. Dog products cannot be used on cats. Annual heartworm testing in dogs also identifies exposure to many tick-borne diseases and an effective vaccine is available for Lyme disease in dogs.
Idexx Laboratories, the laboratory used by the veterinary hospital, has a website dedicated to ticks and dogs. It is a great reference and worth checking out. Ticks seem to be here to stay, so being diligent with tick prevention and avoidance will limit the risks.
article written by:
Laura Rau-Holl, DVM
Wolf Merrick Animal Hospital, Kenosha, WI
The CDC website: http://www.cdc.gov/ticks/index.html
Idexx Laboratories Dogs and Ticks website: http://www.dogsandticks.com/
University of Rhode Island Tick Encounter Resource Center: http://www.tickencounter.org/