The Growing Problem of Ticks
Ticks are becoming a growing concern in Virginia and the greater U.S. Virginia is home to 17 species of ticks, but the only species humans and pets have to worry about are the black-legged tick, Lone Star tick, American dog tick, and most recently, the Asian longhorn tick. In Newport News, our animal hospital wants to help pets and their owners avoid ticks and the diseases they carry. Our tick protection tips include prevention and proper removal.
Where is the Asian Longhorn Tick From?
The Asian longhorn tick is a newcomer from China and Korea and has not yet been associated with any vector-borne illnesses because its feeding patterns have not been established. Ticks become reservoirs of disease after biting an infected animal, which is why it’s important to know what the preferred host is for each tick. The most unique (and creepy) fact about the Asian longhorn tick is that it is able to reproduce asexually, without the need for a male. In fact, as of May 2019, no males have been identified among the thousands of females discovered.
In order to avoid ticks, it’s first important to know how they end up attached to your pet’s (or your) skin. Ticks choose a place on the ground, usually by well-used paths, and wait for a host to pass by in a position known as “questing.” They recognize a host by detecting breath, body odors, and sensing body heat, moisture, and vibrations. When a host passes by, they latch on and some will attach right away while others will wander around looking for an opportune place to bite. To avoid running into these nasty critters, follow these tips:
- Avoid wooded, grassy, or bushy areas. Walk in the center of trails!
- Use a repellant for yourself and a tick control product for your pet. Our veterinarians can talk to you about the best option for your individual pet.
- Wear long-sleeved pants and a shirt and be sure to tuck in your pants to your socks and your shirt into your pants to minimize skin exposure.
- Always do a full body check of yourself and your pet after coming in from outdoors. If you were out camping, thoroughly check your gear as well to make sure none have hitched a ride!
- Remove leaf litter, tall grass, and brush from your home, which could harbor ticks.
Keep in mind that it usually takes several hours for the tick to transmit a disease, so prompt removal is one of the most important things you can do to prevent disease. Follow these steps for safe removal:
- Use tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. Wear rubber gloves or some other form of protection to avoid touching the tick with your bare hands.
- With firm, even pressure, pull the tick straight up.
- Place the tick in an empty jar to keep it for identification if symptoms do develop.
- Thoroughly disinfect the bite site and wash your hands with soap and water.
If your pet develops any symptoms or the bite wound becomes infected, make an appointment with your veterinarian! For any questions or concerns about tick protection, contact our animal hospital at (757) 877-6464.