Alison Ricker waited in the lobby of VCA Northborough on Thursday for an appointment with her Cairn Terrier, Meggie. Ricker has owned dogs and cats all her life, and is a diligent "parent," keeping them up to date with shots and the appropriate medications.
Even with that, years ao, Ricker lost a Scottie to Lyme disease, a disease transmitted by ticks. And ticks, experts say, are not only out earlier this year, but will be in full force. While the mild winter may offer more incentive to walk the dog, with it comes a higher breeding ground for parasites and such.
As the New York Times recently reported, "While entomologists say that the mild weather in much of the country this winter is unlikely to spawn a tick population explosion this spring and summer, they suggest that just like humans and dogs, the pesky critters appear to be enjoying the great outdoors a month or two earlier this year."
"I am worried about it," said Ricker, who lives in Shrewsbury. "I keep up on Meggie's meds and we have a huge, fenced in yard. I am very aware and check her all the time. I am cautious. I'm concerned about it, and so are all my other friends."
The Central Massachusetts Mosquito Control Project, which is located in Northborough, has information and educates the public on the tick population, but is not mandated legislatively for tick control, so its "efforts are limited," according to Executive Director Timothy D. Deschamps. Handouts are available throughout its members town.
"Tick season depends on the species and life stage," said Deschamps. "The dog tick is active in late spring to early summer, then will peak again in late summer. The deer tick follows a similar pattern, but is active earlier in the year, and then into fall. It is also possible to have activity in warm weather throughout the winter; we have seen deer ticks every month since last July, winter included. We do expect to see more ticks than usual because the warm winter probably did not cause a significant die off."
Residents, he said, can manage their properties to some extent to protect from tick infestation. Removing underbrush, keeping leaf litter back as far as possible and creating a buffer zone of wood chips or gravel between the tick's habitat and the yard are some of the effective measures you can take.
"Repellents with DEET are also effective, and it’s important to do a tick check every time you’re outside," he said.
The veterinarians at VCA in Northborough were unable to talk with Nothborough Patch without corporate clearance, but there is some very useful information regarding the detection of Lyme disease as well as removing a tick from your pet on its website.
How concerned are you about ticks getting on your pets? Have you dealt with any yet this year? Where are the areas to avoid in town when walking your dog? Please share your comments with other animal lovers below.