Ticks are very hearty parasites.  Ticks are efficient carriers of disease because they attach firmly when sucking blood, feed slowly and may go unnoticed for a considerable time while feeding. Ticks take several days to complete feeding, but it only takes a minimum of 24 hours for disease transmission.

Ticks have four distinct life stages:

  • Egg
  • Six-legged larva
  • Eight-legged nymph
  • Adult

Females are capable of depositing from 3,000 to 6,000 eggs on the ground.

Ticks wait for host animals on the tips of grasses and shrubs. Ticks are not commonly found in trees. When brushed by a moving animal or person, they quickly let go of the vegetation and climb onto the host. Ticks can only crawl; they cannot fly or jump.  When they sense a change in carbon dioxide or heat they move themselves to the edge of a branch or leaf so they have a better chance of attachment.  Some species of ticks will crawl several feet toward a host. These parasites prefer to stay close to the head, neck, feet and ear area. In severe infestations, however, they can be found anywhere on a dog’s body.  It typically takes 24-48 hours of attachment for disease to transmit.

Ticks can be active on winter days if the ground temperatures are above 45 degrees Fahrenheit!

There are two groups of ticks, sometimes called the “hard” ticks (Ixodidae) and “soft” ticks (Argasidae). Hard ticks, like the common dog tick, have a hard shield just behind the mouthparts (sometimes incorrectly called the “head”).

Although there are at least 15 species of ticks in North America, most common include:

American dog tick

Lone star tick

Deer or Blacklegged tick

Brown dog tick


Nexgard: Prevents fleas and ticks; oral once monthly    DOGS ONLY

Bravecto: Prevents flea and ticks; oral every 3 months    DOGS ONLY

Advantix: Prevents and treats fleas and ticks; topical once monthly     DOGS ONLY

Frontline Plus: Prevents and treats fleas and ticks; topical once monthly (dogs and cats)

Frontline Gold: Prevents and treats fleas and ticks; topical once monthly (dogs and cats)

Revolution: Prevents heartworm (treats for fleas, mange, the American Dog Tick- dogs only); topical once monthly (dogs and cats)

For more information about ticks please visit: http://www.dogsandticks.com

For more information about ticks please visit: http://www.capcvet.org

For more information about ticks please visit: http://www.petsandparasites.org

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is caused by a spirochete. A spirochete is a type of bacterium.  Borrelia burgdorferi is the specific organism name.  An organism that serves to transport and deliver an infectious organism from one host to another is called a vector. The vector of Lyme disease in the Northeastern United States is the deer tick, Ixodes scapularis.

Once in the blood stream, the Lyme disease organism is carried to many parts of the body and is likely to localize in joints.  When canine illness does occur, it does not begin to manifest for weeks to months after infection.  Dogs with lameness, swollen joints, and fever are suspected of having Lyme disease. We often see dogs with a “switching leg lameness”.  That is often a key sign to Lyme disease.

The Borrelia burgdorferi organism is fairly well suited to live in the canine body without causing trouble.  Most exposed dogs harbor the organism uneventfully and never get sick.

A dog’s most serious long-term problem can be a type of kidney damage called glomerular disease.  The immune system is constantly active in its attempt to remove the invading spirochete, and over the years these complexes of antibodies may deposit in the kidney and cause damage. It may be recommended (will be discussed with your veterinarian, each pet is different with their disease) that dogs with positive Borrelia burgdorferi antibody levels be screened for significant protein loss in their urine with a test called a urine protein to creatinine ratio.  It may get to the point where treatment to slow down the progression of the kidney failure takes place (IV fluids, prescription diets, medications, etc).

There are blood tests used for confirmation. The first is an antibody test, this tests for exposure to the disease.  We do this test right at the hospital, results are obtained within 10 minutes and all it requires is a few drops of blood.  Occasionally there may be a need for further testing, such as titers or more in-depth chemistry panels, but that will be at the discretion of the veterinarian.

Here is a map of the prevalence of Lyme Disease in Erie County alone (note it HIGH)!:

Lyme US

For more information about Lyme disease please visit: http://www.petsandparasites.org

To see how prevalent Lyme Disease is in your area visit: http://www.capcvet.org