PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Local doctors and veterinarians say they're seeing an alarming increase in deer ticks in the area recently, which can cause dangerous Lyme disease in people and pets that are bitten by the bugs.
Dr. Kristen Thornton, at The Big Easy Animal Hospital in Lawrenceville, says they always see Lyme disease in dogs in the warmer spring, summer and fall months, but they've recently been seeing eight to 10 cases a week in their patients.
"A lot of people think that during the wintertime our flea and tick population dies down, and it does to an extent depending on how cold it is," she told KDKA. "But we've had a warmer winter and it only takes one or two warm days for those fleas and ticks to have that life cycle start up again."
Dr. Thornton says Lyme disease in pets often shows up looking like arthritis or lameness, but can also cause organ damage if not treated. And it's not just an issue for dogs who are walking in areas where ticks are often more prevalent.
"We've diagnosed house Chihuahuas. If they go outside to use the bathroom, they can absolutely pick up a tick," she said.
Dr. Thornton says you can protect your dog by combining a vaccine and repellants, like a flea and tick collar.
In the case of prevention in people, experts recommend you wear long sleeves and long pants when walking outside, especially in grassy or wooded areas. The most obvious sign you have Lyme disease is often a telltale bullseye-shaped rash.
Dr. Thornton says the increase in the tick population they've seen, even in the winter months, shows people around here have to be vigilant all year.
"We have been pushing for a lot of year-round flea and tick prevention," she said.
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