Lyme Disease in Dogs
Deer ticks didn’t exit the Northeast over Labor day weekend
Ticks and companion animals
As the myriad collections of colorful leaves paint our local landscapes, it’s important to remember that once on the ground, these leaves present the perfect habitat for the emerging adult deer tick population. Leaves provide a moist and high humidity environment that is essential to deer tick survival.
While nymph ticks are at their peak during the spring and summer months, and are responsible for transmitting the most cases of Lyme disease to humans; the fall months are optimal for adult deer ticks encountering companion animals, resulting in the highest seasonal incidence reports of canine Lyme.
More ticks in more places
Domestic or wildlife animals may be “sentinels” if they give early warning of infection health threats in the environment. Our companion animals are sentinels for ticks – if there are ticks on or about your property, your pets are likely to be the first to interact with them. If your pets are picking up ticks, you are more likely to encounter them as well.
Why more tick encounters?
- Proximity – the ever increasing overlapping of residential developments into tick habitat
- Landscapes often defined by areas with abundant edge interspersion (interface of lawns and wooded edges)
- A change in the environment
- Land use in work and recreation
- A change in wildlife habitat
- Healthy deer population-reforestation provides for plentiful browse for deer
- Plentiful rodent population
- Habitat for predators diminished with new developments
- Shift in abiotic factors (climate, temperature and humidity)
- While the fall months are not peak for the actual transmission of Lyme disease, fall is the peak season for the adult deer tick in many areas of the country. As busy families settle in with back-to-school activities and look forward to the upcoming holiday season, it is easy to see how communities can overlook what many believe to be a summer phenomenon.
Serious concern to pet owners
Ticks are not only gross, but also a serious health threat. Tick Borne Diseases (TBD) are either endemic (established) or emerging in many parts of the United States and Canada (geographic distribution of ticks that bite humans). The months from October through February are very active times for adult deer ticks – ticks actually prefer cooler temps for questing, and are active anytime the temperature rises above freezing. While the Northeast and Upper Mid-West are hotbeds for Borellia Burgdorferi, the causative disease agent for Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis and Ehrlichiosis are also prevalent in many states.
Here is a range of data from the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) The numbers indicate the percentage of dogs that tested positive for each disease agent by vets from January – September, 2018.
Lyme Ehrlichiosis Anaplasmosis
- Maine 12.87% (1 in 8) 1.45% (1 in 70) 12.45% (1 in 9)
- Connecticut 14.89% (1 in 7) 1.66% (1 in 61) 15.13% (1 in 7)
- Missouri .19% (1 in 533) 6.78% (1 in 15) .23% (1 in 444)
- Arkansas .23% (1 in 436) 18.45% (1 in 6) .34% (1 in 292)
Deer ticks, prevalent in many parts of the northeast and upper mid-west, are now expanding south, while the Lone Star tick, the predominant southern tick, is moving northward. Although Lyme disease gets headlines and the majority of attention, other disease agents also pose a serious and ongoing threat to public health.
Protect your pets – protect yourself!
Since ticks transmit a wide variety of disease agents to people and pets (deer ticks are active in winter months anytime the temperatures rise above freezing), tick control must be practiced consistently throughout the year to protect the health of your pets and to prevent untreated pets from bringing ticks – which may then infest people – into the home. Consult with your veterinarian for topical (application to fur) or systemic (oral) options.
- Topical pyrethroids are repellent and acaricidal – less likely that an animal will become infected by a disease agent.
- Systemic- no repellency, kills within 8-24 hours of attachment. Expect to find attached ticks with systemic products. Can a systemic prevent a disease agent? Depends on how long it takes for the pathogen to be transmitted, example Ehrlichiosis can be transmitted in as little as 3 hours.
- Insect Shield for Pets and Dog Not Gone have commercially available garments to better protect your companion animals from ticks.
- Consider personal protection strategies such as protection and landscape modifications , including treating your clothing, outdoor shoes or boots with permethrin spray. You can treat yourself, or better yet, consider sending your clothing away to Insect Shield for a professional, long lasting treatment.
It’s important to understand that ticks are a 12 month/year concern, and that no one prevention method is 100%, thus the importance of employing multiple strategies to safeguard your family and pets, including understanding the 2-year life cycle of the deer tick, being vigilant while spending any amount of time in proximity to tick habitat, and most important of all, performing multiple daily tick checks, especially on children and pets. Check out our educational resources including fine pointed magnified tweezers, tick removal kits, tick ID guides and educational bookmarks.
Our Mission – protecting people, pets and properties from ticks and tick-borne illnesses with a personal, professional and effective tick management program centered around education and awareness. 2019 will mark our fifteenth year anniversary of protecting residents of York and Cumberland counties, Maine.
Remember, when it comes to tick-borne illnesses, Prevention is the BEST Prescription!