Another invasive species has hit our shores and most dog owners in Westchester are learning about the longhorned tick for the first time this Fall. This tick is native to Eastern Asia but was noted to invade Australia and New Zealand where it is called the Bush tick and Cattle tick respectively. It was first discovered in 2017 in New Jersey and has now been identified all along the Eastern seaboard and as far west as Kentucky. We suspect that its range will be recorded as having increased dramatically in the US after this year.
We have fielded many calls from our clients requesting help to kill the tiny tick larvae that they observe by the dozens or even hundreds crawling in their pet’s fur. These larvae are only tiny black dots but when observed long enough, they are noted to be moving in the hairs. Light colored hair coats make identification much easier.
What makes this tick so prolific is that it is able to overwinter in our climate and the female tick is able to reproduce and lay fertile eggs without a male tick. The tick has been found on pets, livestock, wildlife and people. Apparently, large numbers of eggs and therefore larvae occur in focal areas indicating proliferative reproduction. When the tick larvae emerge from their eggs they are stimulated to move toward a warm vertebrate host by body temperature and probably exhaled carbon dioxide. A blood meal is required for progression to the next life stage.
Tick Habitat and Lifecycle
As we have learned from our clients, these ticks are present all over Westchester County and adjacent environments along typical trail walks and in back yards. The tick exists in three life stages (adult, nymph and larva). Each seek a vertebrate host, feed and then drop off to progress to the next life stage or lay eggs if it is an adult.
In its native habitat of Asia, this tick is known to transmit disease to cattle that can impact their health and productivity. Field-collected longhorn ticks in Asia were noted to harbor pathogens similar to those found in deer ticks here in the US. The capacity of this tick to act as a vector and transmit these diseases to people and animals has not been studied but will likely become a priority in the very near future. This species of tick is considered a possible vector for Thrombocytopenia Syndrome Virus in China which can cause serious illness in humans.
What’s the Good News?
The effective tick control products we are already using on our pets appear to be just as effective to kill all the life stages of this tick species. It may take time for the ticks on your pet to die as they have to be in contact with the insecticide on the fur and in the skin oils for a period of time for them to receive a lethal dose and die. Understandably, many clients do not want to wait for the ticks to die over several hours so other options include bathing your pet with a gentle shampoo or insecticidal shampoo appropriate for cats/dogs.
We now carry Vetkem Flea and Tick Spray here at Croton Animal Hospital which can be sprayed on your pet per manufacturer directions either before your planned walk or after seeing the ticks on your pet. This product has rapid “knockdown” to kill all life stages of the tick so that they can then be removed by combing and/or bathing. Other prevention measures you can take for yourself and your pet include the following:
- Use an appropriate insect repellent on yourself containing DEET before outdoor activities in high- risk areas
- Shower/bathe as soon as possible after spending time outdoors
- Perform tick checks on yourself, kids and pets daily and after outdoor activities
- Tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes or more to kill ticks on dry clothing and longer for damp clothing
What to do if you find these ticks feeding on yourself or your pet
It is advised that you save the tick(s) in a ziplock bag in the freezer or in rubbing alcohol. Call your family physician or veterinarian for advice. Identification and testing of the tick may be recommended if you become ill but as this tick species is an emerging threat, little is known about its potential to cause illness here in the US.
We will make every effort to keep our clients informed as we learn more about this new tick species.
Read more about the Longhorned Tick from the CDC here.