Rocky Mountain spotted fever is spreading
That means more dog owners have to pay attention to illnesses such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, a disease carried by ticks that can sicken and even kill humans and their canine companions.
The bacteria initially invades the bloodstream, then settles into the cells that line blood vessels. Blood can seep out of the vessels and pool under the skin or even in the brain. The disease can be treated with antibiotics if caught in time.
At UC Davis, Foley studies its spread. Historically, most cases were spread by the American dog tick and occurred in the southern Atlantic states and the south-central states. North Carolina and Oklahoma accounted for the largest proportion.
Foley has tracked a new tick strain making its way north. This tropical strain of the brown dog tick has been found in many parts of the world and is known in the USA in Florida, Texas, Arizona and Southern California, where it may have been introduced from Brazil and Mexico.
It can carry Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Cases are appearing along the U.S.-Mexican border in areas that have never had to deal with the disease before. The new tick has gotten as far north as Los Angeles. Foley expects it to make its way up through California's Central Valley as far north as Sacramento.
It's much more aggressive than tick species Americans are used to.
"It bites more, the hotter it gets. So the hotter it is, the more infections there are," Foley said.