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Posted on 06-17-2016

Ticks attach to their hosts and take blood meals that can last for days. While attached, ticks have the potential to transmit a variety of diseases to the host. Tick borne illnesses include Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis, Anaplasmosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Babesiosis, to name a few. The length of time a tick needs to be attached to transmit a disease varies from one disease to the next. For example, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Ehrlichiosis can be transmitted within 3 to 6 hours, whereas it can take 24 to 48 hours for Lyme disease transmission (capcvet.org). Generally speaking, if you know the tick species, you can also know which tick borne diseases that tick could be carrying. Lone Star ticks (Amblyomma americium) tend to transmit the agents that can cause Ehrlichiosis (among others), and the Eastern black-legged tick / Deer tick (Ixodes scapularis) is known for transmitting the agent that causes Lyme disease (among others). Bear in mind, however, this does not always have to be the case. The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) has a great overview of ticks including the illnesses that are typically associated with each tick species.

So how prevalent are tick borne diseases in Guilford County? First, consider that ticks such as the American Dog Tick, Brown Dog Tick, Lone Star Tick, and the Black Legged Tick can all be found in North Carolina (NCSU Insect Info). CAPC produces parasite prevalence data for 3 tick borne illnesses: Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis, and Anaplasmosis.

Consider these CAPC statistics for 2016:

  1. 1 out of 30 dogs tests positive for exposure to Lyme disease.
  2. 1 out of 24 dogs tests positive for exposure to Ehrlichia.
  3. 1 out of 262 dogs tests positive for exposure to Anaplasma.

What does all this mean for you and your pet?

  • Tick borne diseases are truly a risk in North Carolina.
  • Implement yard control measures such as keeping the lawn mowed and weeds trimmed back.
  • Perform tick checks regularly on all pets. If you find a tick on your pet, put some gloves on (to prevent yourself from being exposed to tick borne illnesses) and find some tweezers. Grab the tick as close to the skin as possible with the tweezers and gently pull straight out. Do not grab the body of the tick because this could cause the tick to release more infectious agents into the host. Home remedies such as petroleum are ineffective and may actually cause the tick to salivate more (and then release more infectious agents into the host).
  • Consider preserving any ticks you remove in alcohol in case future identification is necessary. Be sure to monitor your pet for the next several weeks to months for any signs of tick borne illness (lethargy, fever, rash, swollen joints, malaise, etc.). If you notice any of these signs in your pet contact Lawndale Veterinary Hospital right away. Tick borne diseases can make pets very ill.
  • Utilize tick prevention products for pets year round.

For more tick information, visit our 'Paws to Protect: Flease & Ticks' section.

Author: Dr. Clarissa Noureddine, DVM, MS