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‘They’re hungry!’ Warmer weather brings threat of ticks that spread lyme disease and others

PITTSBURGH, Pa. — Harley and Spike are neighbors. Harley, an English Mastiff, is the size of a small horse. Spike, a Westie, thinks he’s the same size, but their stature in the world makes no difference to the threat rising up beneath their feet.

The winter weather did nothing to kill off the tick population, and they are surfacing like a scene in a George Romero movie.

“They’re hungry! They’re looking for a blood meal,” said veterinarian Dr. Mike Hutchinson of Animal General in Cranberry, Pa. “Right now, they’re coming out to bite and spread disease. They are disease-carrying experts.”

Ticks can give your pet lyme disease and others, including “Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever,” and Dr. Hutchinson says they are not just after your dog.

“On outdoor cats, you see just as many ticks as you do on the dogs,” said Hutchinson.

Dr. Hutchinson pointed out the emerging ticks are very small.

“You are not going to see them very easily. You could have 10 ticks on a dog and it would be hard to find them,” Hutchinson said.

He said you should make sure you check your pet carefully after every outdoor exposure.

“The classic areas are inside the ear flaps, under the armpits, inside the groin. Those are easier places to find ticks,” Hutchinson said.

And if you find one…

“Pull slowly so they get tired and let go. That’s the best way to remove them,” said Hutchinson.

Dr. Hutchinson said you should not delay administering some form of tick and flea treatment. He said most treatments will kill all fleas on your pet within 24 hours. He prefers the edible versions.

“When they eat it, they got it and it seems to work very ,very well,” he said.

Putting a note on your refrigerator can help remind you to administer it again next month.