Time in nature, sun on our skin, and the promise of spring warmth are what keep us going through long New England winters. As soon as the weather allows we want to be out and about with our dogs, but we aren’t the only ones who live for warmer days. Many tick species become active when the thermometer rises above 45 degrees Fahrenheit — just a day or two of warmth and ticks are on the move. These parasites are more than pesky when they attach themselves to you or your dog and transmit disease, they can be downright dangerous.

In recent decades, changes in land use patterns, suburban development, and temperature shifts have increased the threat of tick-borne illness to human and canine health. As humans and their four-legged companions continue to seek space in nature and temperatures continue to vary more substantially throughout the year, the conversation on tick-borne disease has become an essential part of canine care.

Most common tick-borne illnesses occur when a tick infected with a pathogen attaches itself to a host and transmits that pathogen into the host’s system via the bloodstream — the time required for transmission can vary between ticks and disease agents. According to mass.gov, the three most common tick-borne diseases in Massachusetts are Lyme Disease, Babesiosis, and Anaplasmosis. Just this past March, the US Centers for Disease Control released a study indicating a notable increase in the prevalence of Babesiosis cases in the New England region. The most common carrier for all three illnesses is the black-legged or deer tick, found throughout Massachusetts. While symptoms often overlap, diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis can vary from illness to illness.

See the chart below for a helpful overview of these 3 common tick-borne diseases, their symptoms, and treatments.

With all tick-borne illness, early diagnosis and successful treatment are critical, making awareness of symptoms and attentiveness to care imperative. However, the real key to protecting your pets from these illnesses is preventing the tick from spreading the bacteria or protozoa to your dog in the first place. The best way to protect your pet is with a year-round tick preventative and regular tick checks. Routinely and thoroughly inspect your dog’s coat, physically removing any ticks you find on your pet. Click here for a video and overview from the American Kennel Club (AKC) on properly removing a tick from your dog.

Gone are the days of treating our animals from spring through fall and hoping for the best through the winter months. The increasing geographic range of a variety of ticks and greater climatological window for tick activity necessitates year-round diligence and prevention on our part. There are a wide variety of flea and tick preventives on the market; speak with your vet about which suits you and your dog’s lifestyle best. The only way to truly enjoy time in the outdoors and the beauty of nature with our four-legged friends is to do so with the peace of mind that we are keeping them safe from tick-borne disease.