GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- The weather is warming up across West Michigan, and this means more people will be out walking their dogs over the next several days. Ticks are also out in greater numbers with the warmer temperatures arriving.
In fact, the Cascade Hospital for Animals has reported twenty cases of ticks biting dogs so far this year. Normally, they would just start seeing their first cases coming in at this time of year.
Entomologists say ticks are out in greater force at this time of year because of the mild stretch of weather we enjoyed in March. Ticks have also increased in general across West Michigan in recent years.
"No one really knows why this general increase is taking place," said Howard Russell, an Entomologist at Michigan State University. "If you look at states bordering states with similar climates like Wisconsin, Minnesota, even Pennsylvania and New York... You know, they've historically had high numbers of ticks in those states. So there's no reason why the Lower Peninsula... Especially the southern Lower Peninsula... shouldn't support high numbers of ticks."
To keep your dog safe from the impacts of a tick bite, it's important to inspect them regularly.
"There's a couple of things I like people to do, one is just maintenance," says Dr. Steve McBride, a Veterinarian at the Cascade Hospital for Animals in Grand Rapids. "You know, looking at the pet, running your hands through the coat, looking for little tiny things that look like scabs that you may not have noticed previously when you examined them. We want to catch them as early as possible."
Ticks can be removed by a Veterinarian, or you can do it yourself if you feel comfortable.
"If you take a very fine pair of tweezers and grasp the tick as close to the skin as you can get it, so you're basically grasping the head of the tick, and pull gently but firmly straight out you'll usually get the tick plus the head," says Dr. McBride.
Ticks can also be prevented by taking topical or oral medication.
"So it depends on exactly what product you're using and how many months out of the year you're trying to use it. But it could be 60 or 70 dollars for the average sized dog to receive a season's worth of protection," McBride says.
Dr. McBride also says cats can contract ticks. So if you have an outdoor cat, it's important to have them inspected as well.