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'Lone Star' Ticks Attacking New England Pets In Swarms

BOSTON (CBS) – Veterinarians are warning of a new breed of tick in New England that is posing a big threat to pets.

"Lone Star" ticks, identifiable by a white dot on their backs, have been marching north from their native Texas for years, experts with MSPCA-Angell's Animal Medical Center in Boston say.

"We're getting reports that people are seeing them closer and closer to Boston," Dr. Virginia Sinnott of the medical center told WBZ NewsRadio 1030.

In recent months, local vets have seen a 220 percent increase over last year in the number of tick-borne illnesses in dogs.

These Texan ticks are three times as fast as the Lyme disease-carrying Deer tick and have great vision, according to the MSPCA. What's worse, is that they tend to attack animals in swarms.

"Unfortunately they're very aggressive, they're very fast," said Sinnott. "So they can kind of hone in on a dog, or a person, and bite."

Lone Star ticks don't transmit Lyme Disease, but they do carry Rocky Mountain spotted fever and a white blood cell infection that can be deadly to pets. Humans can also develop an allergy to red meat from a Lone Star tick bite.

The MSPCA says there are several steps pet owners can take to keep their animals and their families healthy from the threat posed by ticks, including:

-Using over-the-counter tick preventatives like Frontline or Advantix for dogs, while keeping cats inside.

-Stick to well-worn paths when walking dogs and avoid bushes.

-Keep yard free of leaves and brush that can shelter ticks.

Click Here For More Tick Prevention Tips

-Test pets annually for tick-borne illnesses.

-Watch for flu-like symptoms, decreased appetite and lameness in pets

WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Bernice Corpuz reports

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