The tick population is experiencing record highs in Michigan, and the cases of tick-borne illnesses in people and pets continue to climb right along with it. As our Indiana neighbors grapple with the recent death of a two-year-old from Rocky Mountain spotted fever (a disease spread by ticks), many of us are left wondering what we can do to prevent a tragedy in our own families.
Ticks and pets often go hand in hand, and many tick-borne illnesses can affect our pets as well as us. Minimizing your pet’s exposure to ticks will not only keep him or her healthier, it will also go a long way toward protecting the human members of the family.
Data collected from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services show that cases of Lyme disease have risen steadily since 2000. Fewer than 30 cases were reported each year between 2000 and 2004, compared to 166 cases reported in 2013. Along with the increase in infections comes an expansion of the tick’s geographic distribution, as the Lyme disease-carrying tick species spreads throughout the state.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
In June 2017, a Cass County child became the first confirmed case of Rocky Mountain spotted fever in Michigan since 2009. Rocky Mountain spotted fever is caused by the bacterium Rickettsia rickettsii, and can be fatal in both people and pets if not treated promptly.
Ticks and Pets–Keeping It Safe
Minimizing contact between ticks and pets is an important first step in protecting your pets and family from tick-borne illnesses:
- Keep your pet on a year-round tick preventive medication. If you have not started your pet on a preventive yet, or need a refill, give us a call.
- Check your pet for ticks daily, especially after being outdoors, even in your own yard. Use your hands and be sure to apply pressure to the skin during the check in order to feel any ticks that may be present (see our video below). Remove any ticks you find immediately with a tick key or tweezers and immerse them in rubbing alcohol to make sure they are destroyed.
- Reduce the tick habitat in your yard by keeping grasses and weeds trimmed and removing piles of brush and other debris. Fencing helps to deter deer and other tick-carrying wildlife from entering your property.
- When hiking, keep your pets leashed and stay on the trail and away from tall grass or brush. Do not let pets investigate wildlife, whether alive or dead.
- Apply an insect repellent containing DEET (20-30 percent) to yourself, NOT your pets, while outdoors.
- Be aware that many of the ideas you believe about ticks are myths so be sure you know tick myth from truth.
Protecting Your Pets from Ticks and Tick-Borne Diseases
Your Union Lake Pet Services groomer will be happy to discuss the options for making the detection and removal of ticks on your pet easier, such as a spring trim for long-haired pets. Please give us a call for more details, or to discuss any other tick-related concerns you may have.