People get more tick bites between the months of May and July than any other time of the year. New research now shows that pet owners are more at risk of encountering ticks in their homes.
Tick control especially during tick season is an important part of keeping the household clean. Apart from keeping the home free from pests, it also lessens the chances of contracting tick-borne diseases.
Using data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) initiative called TickNET, a team of researchers examined whether pet ownership increases the risk for human-tick encounters and tick-borne diseases among the household residents.
The team surveyed 2,727 households in the Lyme disease-endemic states of Maryland, New York, and Connecticut. More than half of the respondents' homes were shared with a dog, a cat, or both, and 88 percent of them reported using tick control on their pets.
What they found was that among the participants, pet owners were 1.83 times more likely to find ticks crawling on them and 1.49 times more likely to find a tick attached to a human member of the household compared to households without pets.
Specifically, 31 percent of pet owners had found a tick crawling on them, whereas this experience happened to a lower percentage of non-pet owners at 20 percent. Similarly, while 19 percent of pet owners have experienced finding a tick attached to a household member, this number is also lower for non-pet owners at 14 percent.
What's more, pet owners reported still finding tick on their pets even when they use tick medication.
Tick-Borne Disease Risks
Despite the results showing how pet owners are more likely to have tick encounters compared to non-pet owners, 20 percent of both pet owners and non-pet owners reported having tick-borne diseases.
That's not saying that pet owners could be lax in their tick-control efforts, as the researchers still believe that having more encounters with ticks increases their risks for tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease and Powassan virus.
Certain characteristics of the household may also contribute to the odds of tick encounters. Features such as stone walls, bird feeders, vegetable gardens, and children's play equipment were also linked to increased chances of tick encounters.
The team does acknowledge that their sample size may be considered too small to detect more significant differences, and that the self-report format of the study was unable to specify certain details such as the brand of tick control products used and whether they were administered accurately.
Still, they encourage pet owners to perform daily tick checks on their pets and household members, and to consult their veterinarian regarding tick control.
The study was published in the journal Zoonoses and Public Health.