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A while back, our family’s very adorable and quite large German Shepherd found himself lonesome. On an average Tuesday, he escaped our backyard and went out on an adventure. He somehow found himself at our local state park and wildlife preserve. During his two day adventure, he ran with the deer, frolicked through meadows, and wandered the park. When we finally recovered him, he was covered in ticks! These alien-looking insects were engorged and had been feasting on him. They managed to hide themselves within all the crevices of his body, like his armpits, behind his ears, and between any fold. We removed the ticks, took him to the vet, and got the all clear. We were happy to have him safe and sound again...and this was our first encounter with the unwanted hitchhiker known as the tick.

There are several species of ticks found here in the United States. The most dangerous ones are said to be the blacklegged tick and western blacklegged tick, whose bite can transmit Lyme disease. However, all ticks can be carriers of various diseases such as spotted fever, Colorado tick fever, and anaplasmosis. The Asian longhorn tick is the newest tick that has found its way to the western hemisphere. Scientists are still studying the bite effects and the possibility of disease transmission.

University of New Hampshire Entomologist Rachel Maccini states climate change has created longer warmer seasons, which allow for a longer tick breeding season. New Hampshire has reported an increase of citizens calling in with tick-related inquiries and cases. Here are some tips to keep you and your loved ones protected.

Avoid walking in tall grass and woody areas. Keep on hiking trails to avoid any unwanted insect hitchhikers. Always shower and launder your clothing using hot water and tumble drying in high heat to decrease the possibility of these critters finding their way into your home. Please note, cold and medium water does not kill ticks!

Examine your pets and clothing before you ride home. Ticks are known to latch onto pets and clothing.

Ensure your yard is a tick-habitat free zone. New Hampshire is experiencing such an increase in tick calls that they have developed a website with information on creating a tick-free yard. East coast of the United States is currently experiencing an increase in the frequency of cases.

Use a tick-preventative product on your dog to decrease the risk of tick bites. If you suspect your pet has been bitten, monitor their behavior for 7-21 days. Some symptoms do not appear until long after the bite.

If you find a tick, quickly remove and bag a specimen if possible. This can help identify the species and allow doctors to verify if it is a carrier of any illnesses. The CDC has a guide on proper tick removal. Avoid home remedies using cayenne pepper or a petroleum jelly application.

Good luck out there and stay safe!

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