LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - Arkansas has some of the highest levels of tick-borne diseases of any state in the nation, and this year is proving to be one of its worst.
Experts are reporting an upswing in tick-borne illness caused by those bloodsucking, disease-transmitting arachnids that don't usually leave their hosts willingly.
Veterinarian Dr. Bob Hale said pets and people need to be aware.
"I wouldn't say ticks themselves were on the increase versus the last 20 years, but I would say their diseases are," he explained.
Dr. Bob said ticks pass on toxins and organisms that can make pets and their owners sick.
"What we look for are dogs that have nose bleeds, that are lethargic, they're running temperatures, they're not feeling good, they're achy. A lot of the same symptoms that people will have with tick diseases. You just don't feel right," he described.
So far this year, The Arkansas Department of Health has seen 108 human cases of tick-borne illness--one of those resulting in death. Last year, 951 cases were reported, and five of those were deadly.
Dr. Bob said if left untreated, symptoms can get even worse.
"There is no such thing as a tick preventative that is 100 percent," he added.
Dr. Bob believes there are still ways to protect yourself and your pet.
"In animals, when a tick attaches to a dog or a cat, usually it takes 12 to 24 hours for that tick to transmit that type of bacteria, so there's time to get the tick off actually before the transmission of the disease," he explained."It's not just the products you put on your dog, but it's going out in the backyard and around your house or in the fenced in area where your dogs stay and spraying that area with insecticides routinely."
While not all ticks transmit disease, Dr. Bob said every tick bite should be treated with caution.
"Take Vaseline, some type of oil and just rub it on top of the tick. What you're doing, actually, is the tick can't breathe, and so, the tick will try to back out," he said. In 5 to 10 minutes pull the tick off.
There is a new tick-borne illness on the rise. It's known as the Heartland Virus, and scientists have determined it's carried by the Lonestar tick. The issue with this tick-borne illness is that it doesn't respond to antibiotic treatment like other tick viruses.
Most tick-borne illnesses in Arkansas can be treated with a round of antibiotics.