As the weather warms up, deer ticks that have been lying dormant over the winter are beginning their nymph life stage. This means they’re at the prime stage to bite and potentially transmit Lyme disease to you and your dogs[1,2]. Adult deer ticks can be active in the fall, winter, and early spring when ambient air temperatures exceed 40 degrees, so it’s important for your dog to be protected year-round.
Lyme disease is passed to humans and animals through bites from the small black-legged deer tick infected with Borrelia burgdorferi, a type of bacteria. Deer ticks are found in forests or grassy, wooded, marshy areas near rivers, lakes, or oceans. People or animals may be bitten by deer ticks during outdoor activities such as hiking or camping, or even while spending time in their backyards.
Unfortunately, Lyme disease is difficult to diagnose and treat. It can cause recurring health problems for your dog, such as arthritis, or progress to rapid kidney failure. The cornerstone for Lyme disease prevention is year-round tick control, prompt tick removal, Lyme vaccination, and routine disease screening.
If you live in certain areas of the United States, your pet is at higher risk for Lyme disease. According to the CDC, 95% of Lyme disease cases were reported from 14 states: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin. A small number of cases have been reported along the West coast in California, Oregon, and Washington. Additional emerging areas include Tennessee, Virginia, the Carolinas, and the Ohio River Valley.
If you live in these states, your pet is at increased risk for Lyme disease. If you don’t live in these states, that doesn’t mean your dog is in the clear. Tick boundaries have been shifting and expanding, so ticks that transmit Lyme disease are evident in almost every state. And don’t forget about when you travel with your pets — you may be visiting a location where Lyme-carrying ticks are more common. Because of all of this, it’s important to talk with your veterinarian to see exactly what your pet’s risk is, and how they recommend protecting your pet from the disease.
Symptoms of Lyme disease may not show in your dog for months. Be on the lookout for these symptoms:
If you notice any of these symptoms, see your veterinarian so your dog can be tested for Lyme disease. If they test positive, there are some things that can be done to help them, but your dog can still have lasting effects from it for life.
Dogs can pick up ticks while outside and bring them into the home, putting dogs and humans at risk. You can protect your dog from Lyme disease by having them on a year-round parasite preventative that protects against ticks. You can also talk to your veterinarian about a Lyme disease vaccine that protects your dog from getting the disease in the first place. Your veterinarian can advise if the vaccine is a good fit for your dog based on their lifestyle.
The best way to prevent it is to keep ticks from biting your dog in the first place, or at least remove or kill the ticks before they have a chance to transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease (which typically takes 36-48 hours of attachment).
Always remember to check your dog for ticks after time spent outdoors (even if your dog is on a preventative), especially after spending time in the woods or thick grassy areas. If you spot a tick, never remove it with your fingers. Follow these steps for removal: