Tick season is starting earlier than usual in Iowa - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Tick season is starting earlier than usual in Iowa

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

The Iowa Department of Public Health reports tick season is starting earlier than usual this year -- thanks to a mild winter and warm spring. The insects are catching many people, and pet owners in particular, off guard.

"This year, tick season has almost been year-round. We were picking ticks off dogs in February," said Dr. Bradley Kneeland, from Pawsitive Pet Care.

"So far, the ones people are coming in with are what we call dog ticks -- brown dog ticks. Which are not particularly hazardous. They're annoying little buggers, I'll tell you that!" said Jon McNamee of the Black Hawk County Health Department

McNamee said the ones he worries about most are deer ticks. They carry the organisms which cause lyme disease.

"Lyme disease can be quite serious. It can manifest itself in what's called lyme arthritis. There can be cardiac problems. It's a very serious disease if left unchecked," said McNamee.

McNamee believes doctors are getting better at identifying lyme disease early on, but the best protection is prevention.

People are encouraged to wear long pants or tall socks, and avoid high grass. In your animal's case, a topical repellant is helpful, but check with your vet before you buy.

"Some of the applications aren't as good as the others. Some cannot be used on cats. Some can be very toxic to cats. So you have to know what you're doing," said Kneeland.

If you are outside, you should to check yourself, and your four-legged friend, constantly. Kneeland said ticks can latch on anywhere on your dog or cat's body.

When you come back from spending time outside, run your hand backward on your dog's coat. If you do find a tick, you can take it to your vet. Or, you can try to remove it yourself.

"If you want to, you just grab the tick by the body, a slow, steady pull with the way the tick is laying. The skin will tighten up and they pop off and they're done. Throw them in a bottle of alcohol though. If you let them go, they'll still be alive," said Kneeland.

Even though the side effects are troubling, McNamee says it shouldn't stop you from enjoying the summer.

"Don't let the tick dissuade you from going outside. You just have to be careful," said McNamee.

Kneeland also is seeing animals with fleas earlier than usual. He says, the topical repellant you use for ticks should work for preventing fleas and other small insect bites as well.

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