2016 tick update: Populations are spreading


Veterinary parasitologist Dr. Richard Gerhold gives the low-down on these burrowing bloodsuckers.

Ticks aren't just disturbing because they embed themselves in the skin. The real concern is the diseases they spread once they dig in, says veterinary parasitologist Richard Gerhold, DVM, MS, PhD, an assistant professor at the University of Tennessee's College of Veterinary Medicine. “Although Lyme disease has received a great deal of attention, other important diseases including ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, anaplasmosis and cytauxzoonosis have been emerging in various areas,” says Gerhold.

And that bite in and of itself isn't innocuous. “Ticks bites can lead to wounds and inflammation from salivary proteins,” says Gerhold. “Secondary infection and disease can be due to toxicosis, local necrosis and tick paralysis. Plus, tick bites predispose animals to secondary attacks by myiasis-producing flies.”

The perfect vector?

Evolution has given these parasites true powers. “Ticks are great vectors because of their ability to be persistent bloodsuckers that attach firmly and feed slowly,” says Gerhold. Add to this the fact that ticks have long lifespans, have a wide geographical distribution, are resistant to environmental conditions, have high reproductive potential and can pass infective agents to the next generation through their eggs or through successive stages, he says.

The key, as always-prevention

Informing your clients of the many risks of tick bites is likely a staple in your exam room. But if your clients remain unconcerned about ticks and tick-borne diseases and, thus, don't see the need for year-round prevention, you can point them to the Companion Animal Parasite Council's parasite prevalence maps to show them that …

No one is safe!

¡Hola, Appalachia! Look out, Canada! In the video clip below, Gerhold says new tick populations are heading your way to menace your veterinary patients. And a new study shows that ticks stick around even in cold weather, making year-round prevention imperative. (Listen to how fast Dr. Gerhold rattles off the names of a couple of these suckers. A true tick master.)

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