Fall is when ticks—usually the deer tick or blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis)—like to put their bite on dogs the most, and, as a result, that’s when Lyme disease is transmitted most often to dogs. And, sometimes Lyme can occur with other tick diseases, so dogs could conceivably end up being infected with Lyme and another disease simultaneously.
In short, where there are ticks, there are tick diseases. And ticks don’t go away when the weather cools off. They’re not going to bite when temps are frigid and there’s three feet of snow on the ground, but even when it warms to 32 degrees they may come out. Temps in the 40s and 50s aren’t a detriment, as some people believe, and when temps are in the 60s or higher ticks are very active.
I talk here about what you can do to protect your dogs. (Don’t forget: Cats are also susceptible to tick disease.)
Begin by testing your dog for tick disease. Tick disease may not be easy to diagnose, particularly if the veterinarian or pet owner isn’t thinking about it as a possibility. Symptoms may be vague or mistaken for other problems.
The IDEXX SNAP 4Dx Plus test doesn’t cover all tick diseases, but certainly offers information on the big ones. The test provides reference laboratory quality technology for superior diagnostic accuracy at the point of care, as recommended by the Companion Animal Parasite Council. As an important bonus, the IDEXX SNAP 4Dx Plus test also tests for heartworm.
You should also check your pets for ticks. You might be surprised: Ticks live in the big city, too. This isn’t only a rural issue.
You can decrease odds of ticks in your environment by clearing away bushes and keeping grasses well groomed.
However, your best bet (once you know your dog doesn’t currently have tick disease) is prevention. And not all tick preventives are created equal. Some pet owners assume products are cheaper at a big box store or another retailer (online or brick-and-mortar) and purchase based on cost, availability, or what they can reach at the store. That is not how to make the decision regarding which product is best for where you live, the combination of pets you have in your home, and their lifestyles. Always talk to your veterinarian about tick preventives.
One more line of protection is a vaccine for Lyme disease. Whether it is recommended or not depends on where you live and your dog’s lifestyle.
The good news: It is possible to protect our pets better than we can protect ourselves from tick disease. We just have to actually do it.