Modern Medicine, Old-Fashioned Care

Apr 2, 2015 | General Health

Tick Borne Illness in Dogs

The prevalence of ticks carrying diseases in our area has increased the occurrence of tick borne illness in dogs and cats. Protecting your pets with effective and safe preventive measures is now essential year round.

Despite a period of record low temperatures this winter, it wasn’t long enough to decrease tick populations. Over the years, mild weather conditions in the fall and early spring warming have contributed to a steady increase in ticks and cases of tick-borne diseases, especially in the Northeast.  In a long-term study, conducted by the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, NY, results showed ticks are appearing earlier and in more places across the United States than before due to changing environmental conditions. This is resulting in increased numbers of tick-borne diseases and illnesses in humans and our pets.  

From regular visits to the dog park, to hiking along trails or strolling through the neighborhood, we enjoy spending time outdoors with our dogs regardless of the season. Of course, without preventive measures to protect your pet, the risk for contracting a tick-borne disease increases. The cost and time associated with veterinary care after diagnosis is significantly more than the cost of preventives.

Many over-the-counter preventives are not effective at killing ticks before they transmit diseases. Even worse, every year at Doylestown Veterinary Hospital we see clients who have purchased over the counter tick products that are fakes and completely ineffective and sometimes dangerous.  Make sure that the preventive you choose is safe and effective.

The most common tick-borne diseases in dogs for our area include:

  • Lyme disease
  • Anaplasmosis
  • Ehrlichia

To learn more about these tick-borne diseases and other conditions like heartworm and intestinal parasites, click here.

What are the odds my dog could become ill?

The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) offers an interactive map of the United States which provides important statistics, on the county level, for the number of dogs or cats diagnosed with various tick-borne diseases, intestinal parasites and conditions like Lyme, roundworms and heartworms.

“The chance of your dog or cat contracting a tick-borne illness or intestinal parasites can be significantly decreased by taking proper preventive measures. There are several effective options for protecting pets, including vaccinations, oral medications and topical treatments. Because pets in our area are at an increased risk for these illnesses, the veterinarians and staff at Doylestown Veterinary Hospital discuss prevention and address client concerns with every exam,” said Dr. Laura Weis, co-owner of Doylestown Veterinary Hospital.

The current odds for Bucks and Montgomery counties are:

Lyme disease

  • In Bucks County, 1 in 9 dogs test positive.
  • In Montgomery County, 1 in 8 dogs test positive.


  • In Bucks County, 1 in 72 dogs test positive.
  • In Montgomery County, 1 in 43 dogs test positive.


  • In Bucks County, 1 in 92 dogs test positive.
  • In Montgomery County, 1 in 51 dogs test positive.

“Lyme disease is endemic in many parts of the country. In our area, approximately 80% of the unvaccinated dogs we see are positive for Lyme disease. While no vaccine is 100% effective, vaccinating your dog against Lyme disease in areas of increased risk is absolutely essential,” added Dr. Weis.


Talk to your veterinarian about the options for preventing tick-borne illnesses and intestinal parasites that best suit your pets and lifestyle. Preventive options include:

  • Providing regular doses of topical or oral preventives
  • Inspecting your dog’s or cat’s coat for ticks each night, especially if you’ve been in a wooded area or walking through high grasses and brush
  • Consulting with your veterinarian about identifying ticks, removing ticks and identifying the symptoms of tick-borne diseases
  • Vaccinating your dog against Lyme disease and making sure your pet is current on all core and lifestyle vaccinations


Prevention is the most cost-effective treatment. Diagnosis requires a comprehensive history and examination, and can also include extensive laboratory testing. Medical treatment can take weeks or months and a full recovery is not always possible.  Antibiotics are given to treat all three diseases. Improvement of symptoms is usually seen within a few days; however, especially with Lyme disease, the disease may cause on-going joint and kidney damage, requiring lengthy medical therapy.

If you suspect your pet is experiencing signs or symptoms of an illness, call your veterinary practice immediately.

Call Doylestown Veterinary Hospital at 215-345-6000 today to schedule an annual exam or to renew your preventive medications and treatments.