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Mild winter across the region heightens risks from ticks

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Allison Holman's pups, Biff and Finn, love the outdoors but there is a threat looming in the grass waiting to sink its teeth into her dogs.

"Anytime they come in from outside for a while, especially being in the woods, I always check them for ticks just because that freaks me out anyway. I don’t want ticks crawling around on me or my house," Holman said.

Kat McIntyre, of the FMA Animal Hospital said the mild winter helped contribute to a 200 percent increase in the tick population. She said over the last three years, the tick population has grown by 500 percent.

"As dogs are walking through they can come in contact with literally thousands of ticks. For instance, one female tick can lay 7,000 to 9,000 eggs on one blade of grass." McIntyre said, "So hypothetically if half of those hatch, that’s 3,500 ticks on one blade of grass. If your pet just comes in contact with 10 percent of those that’s 350 ticks your dog is coming in contact with."

McIntyre said even more dogs will be at risk to catch tick-borne illnesses, such as Lyme Disease, without the proper preventative treatment.

"If your dogs aren’t on any prevention, they are at great risk for multiple tick bites, multiple risk of disease. So it’s really important to keep them on prevention and keep them safe," she said. "Ticks and fleas are very good hitchhikers so they can hitch a ride on your cat into the house and infect your dog or vice versa so it’s very important that all pets in the household are on prevention monthly."

It's a job that Erica Heisy is taking very seriously for her dogs Sweetie and Maverick.

"It is a concern when we think about going to a dog park to know that we can potentially be bringing in fleas and ticks but with our prevention we seem like we are handling it pretty good," Heisy said.

McIntyre said with proper pet checks and the right medications, your dogs and cats will make it through the summer.

"You do have a pet and the chances of them coming in contact with something are high but this season in particular just keep them on prevention, keep a good eye on them, and they should be fine," she said.

Vets recommend checking your pets daily for ticks. Those areas include: behind the ears, paws, belly, and underneath the legs. It's best to remove a tick using tweezers. Vets recommend grabbing as close to the tick's head as possible and pulling directly out of dog or cat.