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Let's talk ticks

Summer means tick season in many parts of the United States. Dr. John Schaefer, interim director of parasitology, and Dr. Amy Glaser, senior research associate and director of molecular diagnostics, both of Cornell University's Animal Health Diagnostic Center, provide answers to frequently asked tick questions.

ticksWhat should I do if I find a tick attached to me or my pet?

Don’t panic. Remove the tick with a good sharp set of tweezers and protective gloves. There are also various products for tick removal on the market of variable efficacy. DO NOT attempt to burn or suffocate the tick as this causes the tick to release additional, potentially infectious, saliva into the wound. Observe the feeding site for signs of infection. Keep the tick in an escape proof container pending further testing.

What are the dangers of ticks?

Ticks are vectors of a number of diseases, including Lyme disease. They attach to any part of the human or animal body and begin transmitting disease within 24-48 hours.

What is Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is a tick transmitted disease that affects humans and many animals caused by infection with bacteria in the genus Borrelia.

How common is Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is the most common vector borne disease in the US (see for specific statistics).

Is Lyme disease more prevalent in certain seasons or geographic locations?

The disease can be transmitted anytime ticks are active, which in New York State can occur almost any time of the year, including brief thaws during the dead of winter. The disease is especially common in northeastern and upper Midwestern states.

How do I know if a tick is infected with Lyme disease?

The Animal Health Diagnostic Center offers tick identification to determine whether it is Ixodes scapularis, (deer tick) the vector of Lyme disease, and if so, provide additional testing for the presence of Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, and Anaplasma phagocytophilum, another important tick borne disease agent.

How do I submit a tick to Cornell AHDC?

The following link provides submission information for both veterinarians and non-veterinarians.

What symptoms should I look for after removing an attached tick?

Typical clinical signs in dogs are sporadic fever, loss of appetite, lethargy and lameness. Clinical signs of lameness often develop 2-5 months after infection. Consult with your veterinarian on any clinical signs that you think may be due to previous tick feeding. Further testing may be required.