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Tick Diseases That Affect You And Your Pets

Tick Diseases that affect you and your pets

There are a number of diseases that can be spread by ticks to you, your family, and your pets.  Ticks are found in every region of the United States, and in the warmer areas they can be present year round.  Northern areas, where there is a ‘real’ winter, will have a respite when snow is on the ground, but speaking from experience, as soon as the snow melts, ticks will appear. 

Several species of ticks are found in North America, including the wood, or dog tick, deer tick, lone star tick, California black-eyed tick, and mammal soft tick.  All of these ticks can carry disease and spread it to you or your pets through a bite.

Lyme Disease and Ehrlichiosis

These diseases are very similar in the symptoms that they cause – fever, joint pain, and headaches, and Ehrlichiosis adds gastrointestinal distress to the misery.  It is important for these diseases to be identified as quickly as possible, as it can be difficult to remove the bacteria from the body effectively if some time has passed since symptoms began.  I should point out that Ehrlichiosis is considered to be contagious – independent of the need for an actual bite – as it can be spread by saliva or blood.  My three dogs and I all came down with Ehrlichiosis within a 10 day period several years ago, and I had not been bitten by a tick.  If anyone in the family or a pet gets ill with this disease, watch out for symptoms in others, irrespective of a tick bite.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Dog ticks are the means by which this disease spreads, and it is caused by a bacterium.  Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is potentially a much more dangerous disease than either of the above, and fatalities can result if treatment is not given soon after symptoms appear.Fever, pain in the abdominal region, headache, and vomiting usually attend this illness. The rash which gives Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever its name usually does not appear until several days have gone by.  A blood test can confirm whether this disease is present, and the appropriate antibiotics will usually effect a good cure.

Other Tick Diseases

The three diseases mentioned above are probably the most common that will be picked up from a tick bite, but there are several other diseases that are possible in North America including: Tularemia (Rabbit Fever), Relapsing Fever, Babesiosis (caused by a protozoa), and some viral diseases such as Colorado Tick Fever and Tick-borne Meningoencephalitis.

Removing Ticks Safely

Generally, the longer a tick is on a person or pet, the greater are the chances of a disease being transmitted.  Everyone in the family, including pets, should be checked over daily during tick season.  Clothing should be checked as well, and as ticks will often enter a house on their own, keep an eye on door frames, too. 

If a tick is found to be embedded in flesh, it should be removed using tweezers with a very pointed tip.  Grasp the tick as close to the flesh as possible and slowly pull it away.  If you yank it out, you will risk breaking off the mouthparts in the skin, which might then become infected.  Do not squeeze the body of the tick as this will introduce more of the infectious liquid into the host’s flesh.  Freeze the tick for later testing if illness results from the bite.