Having a pet dog or cat more than doubles the odds that humans will find a tick on themselves, and that could raise the risk of contracting tick-borne diseases like Lyme, researchers say.
“Ticks can transmit disease to people and their pets, particularly in the warmer months when they are most active,” said lead study author Erin Jones of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in Baltimore.
Lyme disease is the most common such disease in the U.S.; the risk of exposure is highest in northeastern states, the researchers write in Zoonoses and Public Health.
“Preventing tick bites by avoiding wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter, appropriately using repellents on skin and clothing, and checking for ticks after going outside are effective prevention methods,” Jones said in an email.
The researchers surveyed 2,727 households in three states where Lyme disease is endemic: Connecticut, Maryland and New York. More than half of the households, 1,526, had a dog, a cat or both. About 88 percent of these households reported using some form of tick control on their pets.
Overall, about 31 percent of pet owners had found a tick crawling on a human in the household and 19 percent of pet owners had found a tick attached to a human household member.