Most ticks cannot establish their populations inside our homes, but that doesn't keep them from presenting a threat to us when they find their way inside, especially for those of us who have pets. When our pets go out into our yards, they are prone to picking up ticks and bringing them back inside. This is because, while outside, our cats and dogs often wander into the moist, shaded locations around our properties where questing ticks are lying in wait for a host to pass by. Those ticks then attach to our pets and hitch a ride right through our front doors. Let's take a look at how this works and discuss some of the dangers ticks can pose to us and our pets.
As ticks mature, they switch hosts. Tick nymphs begin their lives feeding on field mice, birds, or other small animals but will eventually move on to larger mammals as they develop. This means that after being introduced onto your property by invading pests, these ticks will target your pets as they are playing out in your yard. These questing ticks may even target you and your family members as you pass by the areas they are hiding in. However, this doesn’t work out as well for them as if they were feeding on animals; it is hard for them to conceal themselves while feeding on us. They would much rather feed on our pets where they can hide themselves in their fur.
Once ticks attach to us or our pets, they can easily be carried into our home without us knowing. For most tick species, this will only be a temporary visit. Only brown dog ticks, known scientifically as Rhipicephalus sanguineus, are able to complete their entire life cycle indoors. But any tick that finds their way inside can present a serious health threat to us before it dies. And if ticks are introduced into your home during their larval stage, they present an even greater threat to us. This is because the bites of tick nymphs are more likely to transmit harmful tick-borne diseases than those of adult ticks, not to mention they are much smaller and harder to see than full-grown ticks. These tick nymphs are often brought into our homes by invading rodents.
Mice and rats pick up ticks in all stages of development and, being that they are small mammals, they are more likely to be targeted by ticks in their larval stages. And when these rodents carry them into your home, it is only a matter of time before those ticks fall off and begin searching for a larger host. This is when you and your pets can be exposed to these parasitic pests.
Each tick species is slightly different, and some tick-borne diseases are isolated to certain species. For instance, blacklegged ticks, commonly called deer ticks, are linked to Lyme disease. And while they aren’t the only tick species that can spread Lyme, they are certainly a high-risk species for this disease. Lyme disease is a tick-related illness that can affect humans, dogs, and cats, though it is a far greater threat for the first two. Cats can contract Lyme disease but studies are not conclusive on how great of an impact it has on them. For humans and dogs, contracting Lyme disease can result in lifelong illness.
Another disease that is gaining attention is Alpha-gal allergy, a rare meat allergy caused by a bacterium spread by lone star ticks. This disease results in an allergy to a carbohydrate found in the cells of many types of red meat including beef, pork, and lamb called alpha-gal, hence the name Alpha-gal allergy. This illness can lead to severe symptoms including vomiting, asthma, and anaphylaxis.
Most of the diseases spread by ticks will just make us and our pets become temporarily ill. But some tick-borne diseases like tularemia can cause tick paralysis, and in some cases, even lead to death.
Rocky Mountain spotted fever, a common illness spread by ticks, can damage blood vessels, organ tissue, and can sometimes even be fatal. Early symptoms of this disease include headache, fever, rash, vomiting, muscle pain, and loss of appetite. If you experience these symptoms after detecting a tick on your skin, consider seeking medical attention.
Ticks are also associated with ehrlichiosis, Powassan disease, babesiosis, bartonellosis, hepatozoonosis, anaplasmosis, and more in humans. Our pets can contract other diseases from ticks than Lyme disease as well. Dogs commonly contract canine babesiosis and canine bartonellosis while cats are prone to diseases like cytauxzoonosis and Haemobartonellosis, which can be fatal.
While not every tick that bites us or our pets is necessarily carrying a disease, it is important to be cautious due to the severity of the illnesses they can spread. Learn what measures you can take to help prevent tick bites and tick illness by clicking here and invest in tick reduction services as part of your ongoing pest control protection! If you do not have a pest control plan for your South Carolina home and you live in the Aiken or the Greater Augusta area, reach out to us! Our team at Aiken Pest Control is nationally recognized as a leader in the pest control industry. When it comes to protecting your family and your pets from tick-borne illness, don't settle for anything less!