Tick Populations Exploding

August 8, 2008 at 2:26 am Leave a comment

… and perhaps also my head

I HATE ticks.  They are a disgusting vile scourge that ruin far too many of my outings with the dogs.  After I find one of the evil little b**tards crawling on me or the dogs (because after all, the dogs do share our BED) I have the heebie jeebies for DAYS.

No longer contect to ruin picnics, hikes and hunting expeditions, ticks have recently infested cruise ships and even delayed airline flights.  Apparently it’s not just my imagination – tick populations really are increasing across the country.  According to Medical News Today:

Veterinarians across the United States are citing an increase in tick-borne infections in recent years, according to Michael Dryden, DVM, a Kansas State University professor of veterinary parasitology. Researchers attribute tick migrations to warmer temperatures, increasing white-tailed deer populations, reforestation and urban sprawl. Advancements in diagnostic screening have allowed veterinarians to easily track the rise in canine exposure to tick-borne infections around the country.

Tick population increases are being reported all over the world; Canada, Turkey, Sweden, Croatia, Italy, the UK and other countries report rising tick populations and expanding areas of infestation.  And of course, more ticks means more tick-borne disease:

“One tick species making its way to new parts of the country is the deer tick (Ixodes scapularis), the primary transmitter of Lyme disease in eastern North America,” says Dryden. Because the main host for the deer tick is the white-tailed deer, surging deer populations have created unparalleled growth in the spread of deer tick populations.

“Recent data show that deer ticks now can be found from Minnesota to Florida, from Texas to Maine and from Kansas to Virginia,” says Dryden. “That means Lyme disease and/or other diseases associated with the deer tick, such as anaplasmosis, may exist throughout all of those regions.”

As tick populations continue to migrate, new diseases are introduced and ticks become more likely to carry and transmit multiple diseases. Matt Eberts, DVM, who practices in the tick-endemic area of Brainerd, Minnesota, is seeing a rise in coinfections, when dogs are infected with more than one tick-borne disease.

“Medical doctors and veterinarians are finding that coinfections in both humans and pets are making treatment for tick-borne diseases more difficult,” said Eberts. “With more ticks carrying more diseases, screening your pet becomes all the more important.”

Where are the revolting little blood-suckers coming from?  According to an article on Gadzoo.com:

We can definitely track the explosion in tick populations by following the deer,” says Dr. Ed Breitschwerdt, professor of medicine and infectious diseases at North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine in Raleigh. “The deer have also been responsible for relocating ticks. A raccoon might travel a few miles in a lifetime; deer travel much farther.” Breitschwerdt adds that some tick species once found exclusively in the South are now turning up as far north as Minnesota.

You can’t blame Bambi alone. Little, who is in the Veterinary Pathobiology Department at Oklahoma State University’s Center for Veterinary Health Sciences in Stillwater, suggests increasing wildlife numbers, in general, from turkeys to squirrels, also can be contributing factors. “It’s wonderful that wildlife is coming back and that we’re preserving nature, but a consequence is more ticks.”

Birds are also believed to be major carriers and the expansion of human populations into formerly wild areas has likely also put us into closer contact with ticks.  Changing climate patterns across the world are believed to be a factor as well.


Entry filed under: dogs, health, science, ticks, wildlife. Tags: .

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