Protecting Your Family from Tickborne Illnesses

When summer heats up, ticks often put dogs and cats in an itchy situation, but the Oklahoma State Department of Health warns humans to be extra careful this summer.

According to the OSDH Acute Disease Service, Oklahoma has one of the highest number of cases for Rocky Mountain spotted fever. In 2012, Oklahoma saw 572 cases of tickborne related illnesses, 11% of those cases required hospital stays, one case was fatal. This year, Oklahoma has seen at least 25 cases of tickborne illnesses, 20% of these cases required hospital stays.

"Anytime the heat and the moisture index go up really the ticks are always more active," said Dr. Jeff Reeves, a veterinarian at Neel Veterinary Hospital.

Dr. Reeves warns pet owners that ticks can often jump from animals to humans.

"Pets are often out in places where the owners don't necessarily get," he explained.

An example? Jewel Cobb and her one year old dog, Zeus-- a precocious pup that loves to play outside.

"We just installed a doggy door and he just comes and goes as he pleases," said Cobb.

Although Cobb keeps her yard well maintained, her family says Zeus took his curiosity to another level this weekend.

"We actually discovered today that he could jump a fence," said Cobb.

When dogs or cats jump over fences into wooded areas with tall grass, Dr. Reeves says this puts them at risk for contracting ticks.

"If you can avoid those areas, avoidance is really important," he emphasizes.

Knowing the heightened risk of contracting tickborne illnesses in Oklahoma, Cobb says with several other pets, she plans to take all necessary precautions now to keep all animals and humans safe at home.

"We're going to be treating our yard a lot more, making sure they have all the medicine they need to keep them off and same with us," she said.

For tips on how to protect yourself from ticks visit the OSDH website.