Ticks have hitched a ride and moved to the suburbs. Some experts predict with another mild winter or two, ticks will be turning up places you’d never expect, like Central Park in Manhattan; Lincoln Park just north of Michigan Avenue in Chicago, and Boston Common.
Dr. Larry Fox’s practice is in River Grove, Ill., adjacent to the local forest preserve, and he says in his 30 years of practice he’s never seen as many ticks as he’s seeing now.
There are several reasons for the proliferating population of bloodsuckers, according to Dr. Michael Dryden, veterinary parasitologist and associate professor at Kansas Sate University College of Veterinary Medicine – Manhattan. For one thing, lots of ticks are the price we pay for mild winters, which makes it possible for the species to survive. The mild winters have also played a major role in the explosion in population of the kinds of animals ticks like to snack on most, including white-tailed deer, opossum and raccoon.
As these animals have moved to the suburbs – or as the suburbs have moved to reach these animals – the risk of exposing family pets to tick-borne disease has never been greater. The most well known, and ironically least understood of these is Lyme Disease.
Lyme Disease is a controversial subject to many veterinarians. Dr. Stephen Levy of Durham, Conn. is the founder of the American Veterinary Lyme Disease Society, and he’s located in the heart of Lyme Disease territory. He says, “Lyme Disease can be a serious threat to our dogs, and this is a disease that’s incorrectly diagnosed all the time.” He’s very concerned about the continued population increase of white-tailed deer, the primary host of the deer tick (Ixodes scapularis).
Levy is a strong proponent for using the Lyme Disease vaccine for dogs in areas where there’s even a remote possibility of contracting the disease. “We really haven’t adequately defined exactly what the incidence of Lyme disease in dogs is,” he says. However, the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Ga. does confirm that Lyme Disease remains a serious concern for the entire Northeastern U.S. as far south as Maryland, as well as Minnesota, Wisconsin and parts of Michigan.
However, despite seeing more deer and more ticks than ever, Fox doesn’t find he’s diagnosing more Lyme Disease. At least for right now, he’s only suggesting the vaccine for his suburban Chicago clients if they go for camping trips to nearby states where the incidence of Lyme Disease is reportedly higher.
Dr. Bruce Klink, of Charlotte, N.C., manager of veterinary professional services at the pharmaceutical company Merial says, “People may not even know their dog has a tick because the deer tick (at the Nymph stage) is only about as small as a dot of ink on a piece of paper, which is why protecting your dog is so important.” This is a statement the overwhelming majority of veterinarians seem to concur.
The Preventic collar and Frontline (either the spray or spot on) are products that have been tested successfully for their safety and effectiveness.
Both Preventic (Amitraz) and Frontline (Fiprinil) are available from veterinarians. Dryden concurs these two choices are the best. He notes the EPA has recently taken Dursban collars off the market because of their potential danger.
Whether you choose the Preventic collar or Frontline, the tick isn’t killed on contact. However, Klink, of Merial, Frontline’s manufacturer, says 95 percent of ticks will be killed within 18 hours, and 100 percent within 48 hours when using Frontline.
As for ticks migrating to big city parks, it’s already happening in places, according to Levy. “It doesn’t take a leap of faith to guess that a dog that has gone to Westchester for the weekend can come back into the city and deposit a tick, which then flourishes off the growing population of opossum, raccoon and rats in the parks – not to mention dogs and people.”
Q: What are the three U.S. states that report few tick-borne diseases in dogs?
A: Alaska, Hawaii and Nevada
Q: What is a tick?
A: It has eight legs and two body parts – like spiders, ticks are arachnids.
Q: What are the three life cycle stages of the tick?
A: Larval, Nymph and Adult
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