People and Pets at Greater Risk for Lyme Disease

Apr 19, 2012

Ticks hang out in grassy, or forested humid areas waiting for their next ride and blood meal. And the tiny arachnids starting hitching rides on people and pets in full force early this year.

Dr. John Reynolds is a Pittsfield veterinarian who says that recent warm weather led to an increase in the amount of animals brought in to have ticks removed from their fur.

 Hank Art is a professor of Biology at Williams College. He says that cold winters usually reduce the numbers in ticks, but for the past two years, nature has worked in the tick’s favor.

But insulating snowy winters or warm snowless one are not the only things that affect tick populations. Ticks feed on the blood of all mammals, and in winter small ones like the white-footed mouse. Professor Art mentioned that a recent increase in the amount of white-footed mice comes from an overabundance of acorns, as part of a natural cycle oak trees go through every few years. More acorns means more mice means more ticks.

The white-footed mouse is a primary carrier for Lyme disease in the Northeast. The illness is passed to the ticks, who can carry the disease to people or pets.

The Center For Disease Control recommends people spending any time outdoors, particularly in the Spring and Fall, should check themselves for ticks. The CDC advises that people wear light-colored clothing and apply repellents to clothes containing Permethrin or at least 20% DEET.

The nymph stage of the black-legged tick is especially dangerous because of their tiny size, only as large as a poppy seed, and can go unnoticed. People or pets with black-legged ticks imbedded in them for more than 24 hours are at risk for transmission of Lyme Disease.

For pets, Veterinarian John Reynolds says that dogs that go outside are more susceptible to the disease than cats, and recommends topical tick treatments.

Lyme disease was first discovered in the 1970s in Lyme Connecticut. Since then, the disease-carrying black-legged tick has been working its way up river valleys, and the disease has spread across the Northeast.

Several Northeastern States have released warnings on the increased populations of ticks this year.

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