How to Keep Your Pets Tick-Free This Spring

Angell Animal Medical Center says tick season is hitting extra hard this year.


Comet, a dog treated at Angell. Photo provided

Angell Animal Medical Center has a warning for pet owners taking advantage of spring weather with extra dog walks: Be especially vigilant about tick prevention.

According to the pet hospital, a rising number of dogs are contracting tick-borne illnesses—a 220 percent increase from this time last year alone. The likely culprit? Lone Star ticks, a breed of insect that has only spread to New England from its native Texas within the past few years. This year’s mild winter only helped to bolster its population levels.

Lone Star ticks are faster than New England-native deer ticks, have better vision, and tend to attack in groups, making them a serious threat to animals. “These ticks are on the move and we need to be proactive about protecting our pets,” says Angell veterinarian Virginia Sinnott in a statement.

Lone Star ticks do not carry Lyme disease, but they can transmit infections like Rocky Mountain spotted fever and ehrlichiosis, both of which can be fatal to dogs if left untreated. A Lone Star tick bite can also affect humans, causing symptoms like fatigue, headache, fever, and muscle pains, so Sinnott emphasizes in the statement that prevention is doubly important.

“It’s essential to keep ticks out of our homes, as their bite can infect us just as they can our dogs,” she says. “By protecting pets we’re protecting ourselves as well.”

Here’s how to keep your pets healthy, courtesy of Angell and Sinnott:

1. Switch up your walking route. Well-kept paths and sidewalks are far less likely than wooded areas to be home to ticks. Stick to heavily traveled routes.

2. Stay current with yard work. If you let your pets play outside—on that note, Angell recommends keeping cats indoors to minimize tick risk—it’s crucial to keep your property well-maintained. Piles of leaves, for example, are a perfect environment for ticks.

3. Look into medications. Over-the-counter solutions like Frontline and Advantix can keep ticks off of dogs.

4. Educate yourself. Make sure you know the symptoms of tick-borne illnesses in pets (namely flu-like symptoms, fatigue, and loss of appetite), and call your veterinarian if you’re concerned about your pet’s health.

5. Know how to remove ticks. If you find an embedded tick on your pet, Angell recommends gripping it, as close to the skin as possible, with tweezers and pulling it out in one fast motion, being sure to remove the entire insect in one go. Afterward, clean the affected area with soap and water and dispose of the tick.