Ticks in the United States are becoming an increasingly alarming problem for both animals and humans. Not only do these parasitic organisms cause hypersensitivity in their hosts, they can also transmit dangerous diseases.
Now, a new species of tick has made its way to the United States from East Asia: Haemaphysalis longicornis or the “Longhorn Tick.”
What Are Longhorn Ticks?
Longhorn ticks are so named because they often appear to have horns. Really, this is just their front sets of legs being close to their heads.
Unlike most other tick species in America, longhorn ticks tend to populate hosts in large numbers. Infected hosts (a cat or dog, for example) may be found to have dozens of longhorn ticks attached to them in a cluster, often on or around the head and ears.
The first longhorn tick in the U.S. was found on a sheep in New Jersey in February of 2017. More recently in June of 2018, a stray dog in Virginia was found loaded with ticks — several of which were confirmed to be longhorns.
Dangers Associated with Longhorn Ticks
Like other tick species, longhorn ticks can carry diseases that both animals and humans are susceptible to. On a larger scale, however, they pose the potentially devastating problem of transmitting the disease Babesiosis to America’s native cattle.
Babesiosis is found in approximately half of the cattle we import from Mexico, but the Texas Animal Health Commission and USDA do an outstanding job of monitoring this influx and preventing the disease from spreading. Fortunately, without a vector (a disease-transmitting organism like a tick), Babesiosis cannot spread.
Unfortunately, the longhorn tick is a vector capable of carrying the Babesia organism. Therefore, if the longhorn tick species spreads throughout the country, it may indeed begin to transmit the Babesiosis disease to our native cattle populations.
What Can You Do?
The Texas Animal Health Commission and USDA are extremely concerned about longhorn ticks.
They ask that you be on the lookout for clusters of ticks that look different from what you’re used to seeing. If you find any, use the proper precautions and put several in a vial with 70% ethanol. Send the vial to the OADDL or APHIS Veterinary Services for identification.
Have Concerns About Ticks and Your Pet?
Our veterinarians at Sunset Veterinary Clinic can help you and your pets stay safe from ticks. If you are worried about ticks and your pet or if your pet has recently come into contact with ticks, contact us as soon as possible to schedule an appointment.