Tag Archives: tick bite prevention

tick bite prevention dogs_gla blog

Are Current Tick Prevention Methods for Dogs Working?

With all the pills, vaccines, collars, and topicals spent on tick prevention methods for dogs, why do cases of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses in dogs continue to rise?


It’s hard to miss all the tick prevention ads for dogs on TV, from pills to collars and everything in between. And if you’re a dog owner, you can’t leave the vets office without tick prevention being part of your dog’s preventative health plan. With the flea and tick product market estimated to hit $1.34 billion by 2025, it’s clear pet owners are taking disease prevention seriously. So why are more dogs getting Lyme disease now than ever before?

“Infection with Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme disease, is extremely common in dogs in North America, and is, unfortunately, becoming even more common every year,” said Global Lyme Alliance Scientific Advisory Board member Dr. Richard Goldstein, Executive Director and Chief Medical Officer of U.S. Diagnostics, Zoetis.

boy dog ticks grass

Why are tick-borne disease cases increasing in dogs despite a plethora of tick preventative measures, including collars, sprays, pills, powders, vaccines? The number of positive cases of canine Lyme disease has climbed by almost 40% in the last four years (from 245,971 in 2015 to 359,461 in 2019), according to the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC), a nonprofit dedicated to increasing awareness of the threat parasites present to pets and family members.

Increases in the numbers of some other tick-borne diseases affecting dogs are even more alarming. These include canine anaplasmosis, which have nearly doubled from 117,203 in 2015 to 221,568 in 2019— and canine ehrlichiosis, up from 107,985 in 2015 to 200,410 in 2019. Keep in mind these numbers likely represent just a fraction of the actual number of cases.

Ticks are now a year-round threat

Dr. Mary Labato, veterinary internist and clinical professor at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, believes multiple factors such as climate change, reforestation, and new suburban developments that push into local fields and woods are playing a role in the increase of tick-borne diseases.

For one thing, not all pet-owners realize that black-legged ticks—the primary carrier of the Lyme disease bacterium—have become a year-round threat. Although winter is underway, ticks can still be found in leaf litter, brush and decaying vegetation—all areas where pets are at risk of picking them up and passing them on to you and your family.

Many people think that ticks die in winter and so they do not need to use tick-control medication during traditionally cold months, like January or February. But stopping anti-tick medications during the winter months is risky. Ticks are quite resilient and most manage to get through the winter just fine. All they need is one day with temperatures of 40 degrees or higher to emerge and begin searching for a blood meal. This past January, for example, in New York State alone more than a dozen days were sufficiently warm for ticks.

blacklegged tick_deer tick“In the past we didn’t expect to come across ticks in the dead of winter,” said Dr. Ann Hohenhaus, staff doctor at New York City’s Animal Medical Center. “But the past couple of winters have been mild, which means ticks are active for more months of the year, increasing the risk of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases in pets.”

Moreover, Lyme disease is spreading to areas once not considered to be at high risk for tick-borne disease. Historically, ticks were mostly found in the Northeast and Upper Midwest. But starting in the second half of the 20th century, developers increasingly pushed into forested areas to build housing. Therefore, more homes and businesses now exist in previously forested areas, which are home to animals such as white-footed mice, deer, and chipmunks which host ticks. “Suburbia has now moved into fields and woods taking away wildlife-exclusive areas,” said Dr. Labato. “So people and dogs are spending more time together in areas where they come in contact with ticks both from the foliage and the wildlife.”

According to a new study from CAPC, Lyme disease prevalence has also been spreading in states not traditionally considered to be at high risk for the illness. These include regions in Illinois, Iowa, North Dakota, Ohio, Michigan and Tennessee. Two decades ago, you would never have seen ticks, for instance, in Northern Minnesota, and now you do.

Tick prevention only works if used consistently

Dr. Goldstein emphasizes that in Lyme-endemic areas, every dog should be protected by their owner by “administering high-quality tick products and taking them [their pet] to their veterinarian to receive an annual Lyme vaccine.” However the use of the vaccines for dogs has been widely debated so talk to your vet about what’s best for your pet.

Yet despite the many anti-tick products on the market, some pet-owners are reluctant to use those that contain pesticides. Instead they may opt for a natural remedy, such as a product with essential oils, whose efficacy is unproven. There is no proof, for example, that apple cider vinegar, which is recommended by a number of websites as a tick preventative, works at all.

For that matter, not even highly effective brand name products will stop or kill 100 percent of the ticks your pets encounter. A 2017 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention initiative surveyed 2,727 households in three states where Lyme disease is endemic—Connecticut, Maryland and New York. More than half had a dog, cat or both in the residence and about 88% of those households reported using some form of tick control. Despite this about 20% of households with pets still found ticks on their animals.

Veterinarians are quick to point out, however, that preventatives only work if they are conscientiously used. “Market research indicates that pet owners are not 100% compliant,” said Dr. Hohenhaus. “Just because pet owners have the medication doesn’t mean they apply it on the schedule prescribed by their veterinarian.”

Check for ticks daily

check 4 ticks dogs_lyme disease in dogsMoreover, Dr. Labato says: “With more options for prevention, we become complacent and rely on the sole activity of the tick preventative. But you still need to check each day for the presence of ticks on dogs, cats, and people.”

If a tick bites your dog, it can transmit Lyme bacteria. That’s why Dr. Goldstein also stresses the importance of checking for ticks and removing them every day. “Go through your pet hair by hair,” he said. “Look at the paws. Look at the ears. Look around the muzzle, the face.”

Dr. Goldstein also suggests setting up perimeter boundaries in yards. “If you’re up against woods in your yard,” he explains, “a barrier of wood chips or pebbles will prevent ticks from going across your property. They can be carried across it by an animal, of course, but at least they won’t cross such a barrier like that without assistance.”

“The most important thing to stress is prevention.”

Additional Resources:

tick season_end of summer

End of Summer Season Doesn’t Mean End of Tick Season

by Jennifer Crystal

Tick season does not stop with the end of summer  


Last night I had an end-of-summer ice cream with someone who said, “I’ve probably met fifteen people this summer who have Lyme disease. It’s such an urgent problem.” Though I was sorry to hear these individuals were sick, I was glad to hear that they had all been properly and efficiently diagnosed. Patients and doctors alike are becoming more aware of this urgent health threat.

What many don’t realize, however, is that the Lyme disease threat doesn’t disappear with warm summer days. Tick season, and active ticks, are a year-round problem, and it’s important to remain vigilant in the fall as we are in the summer. While it’s the nymphal-stage ticks of spring and early summer we worry about most—predominantly because they’re so microscopic that we often miss them—the larger adult ticks of the current season also transmit tick-borne diseases.

Ticks are especially a danger during this time of year to school children who undertake outdoor sports—or any child who plays outside, be it at home, a park, or school recess. As the weather turns colder, ticks hide out in thick brush and leaf piles. They live in long grass, in wooded areas, and in your garden.

If you, your children or pets spend any time outdoors this fall, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Continue to wear bug spray: We don’t just need repellent for summer hikes and campfires; we need it in the autumn, too. Before going on a fall hike, walking to a playground, or letting your child roll in the grass, be sure to apply repellent.
  • Use repellent wipes: Instead of or in addition to bug spray, you can wipe down your skin with repellent wipes before going outdoors. These are great to put in your child’s backpack or in your own purse—you never know when you might need to walk through a grassy area.
  • Spray your clothes and gear: Bug spray isn’t just for exposed skin. You can buy clothes that are pre-treated with permethrin at many outdoor retailers, or you can buy a bottle and spray everything yourself. Include shoes, clothes, sports bags, and any other type of gear.
  • Carry a tick removal kit: In case of a tick bite, make sure to bring tweezers or tick removal tool, alcohol wipes, and a Ziploc baggie to put the tick in once you’ve pulled it out (see how to properly remove a tick). Mark the date on the bag. It’s recommended you send tick(s) out for testing.
  • Wear long pants and sleeves: This is easier when the weather gets cooler. Light-colored clothing is best, because it’s easier to see a tick on a white shirt than a dark shirt. Nerdy as it may look, it’s also helpful to tuck pants into socks, thereby preventing ticks from climbing up your legs.
  • Carry a small lint brush: Run a lint brush over your hair, skin and clothing after spending time outdoors; the sticky paper can pick up ticks you might miss. I carry a lint brush in my purse and also keep one by my front door.
  • Wash and dry clothes and equipment immediately after use: As soon as you or your young athlete get home, throw clothes, shin guards, and other washable gear in the dryer on high heat for at least 10-15 minutes. Ticks require moisture to survive and will rapidly die in a quick spin in a hot dryer.
  • Bathe after outdoor activity: After stripping your clothes and doing a thorough tick check, shower as soon as you come inside (versus waiting even a few hours, and giving the tick time to sit on your body and feed).
  • Continue to do tick checks every night: Make sure you’re not bringing any bugs into bed. Do a head-to-toe check on yourself, children, and pets. Bath time is a great time to do a once-over on kids. Remember to check in spots like the groin, behind the knees, behind the ears, and the scalp. Always Be Tick AWARE!

Wishing you all a fun and tick-free fall!

jennifer crystal_2

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.

Jennifer Crystal is a writer and educator in Boston. Her memoir One Tick Stopped the Clock is forthcoming. Contact her at [email protected].

tick prevention tips_outside party

How to Keep Ticks Out of Your Party and Off Your Guests

You’ve gone through your party checklist from guests to food, but did you add tick prevention to your list? Follow these simple tips to keep ticks out of your party and off your guests.


We all know that mosquitoes, flies and ants are notorious outdoor party crashers. But there are other, far more stealthy uninvited guests, too: ticks. While they may not ruin an outdoor wedding, cocktail party, picnic or backyard barbecue, they can leave both you and your guests with serious long-term health consequences.

Otherwise harmless behavior—like sitting at a table on the grass in the shade of your own backyard, or elsewhere in a park or vineyard, or while walking to and from a parking lot to the beach through grass—can expose you to disease-carrying ticks and be your undoing.

Unfortunately, after a warm, wet winter across much of the U.S. and all the rain that fell this spring, there are more ticks than ever. However, there are ways to keep ticks from ruining the party, not to mention potentially harming your health. “The most important thing is to avoid getting bitten in the first place,” said Sara Tyghter, Global Lyme Alliance’s (GLA) Director of Education and Outreach. Here, GLA and several wedding and event planners share their tips for staying tick-safe at outdoor gatherings.

Apply Repellent

“Ticks should definitely be on everyone’s radar,” said John Perry, co-owner of Catering by… a Small Affair, a boutique wedding and event planning firm based in the Hamptons. ”Yet in my 20 years of catering, I’ve found that guests think more about comfort and avoiding mosquitoes than about [tick] safety. That will change in time.”

One of the most important ways to protect yourself and your guests from ticks and the diseases they carry is by applying an effective repellent to exposed skin. Two well-known ingredients to look for in a tick repellent are picaridin and DEET. In addition, there are numerous essential oils—citronella, lemon leaves, lavender, lemon eucalyptus and several others—but they only provide a brief period of repellency against ticks.

tick repellent_image onlyDEET has long been considered the gold standard for all repellents. Yet DEET has some drawbacks. It emits a distinctive—and for many, unpleasant—odor and can feel oily on skin. Moreover, it can dissolve certain plastics (think eyeglasses, phones, etc.), and leather and synthetic fabrics such as rayon and spandex. Repellents containing 20% picaridin, long used and trusted in Europe, are less toxic. Studies have shown picaridin is as effective as DEET against ticks and mosquitoes. But unlike DEET, picaridin is nearly odorless (some have a mild citrus scent when first applied), non-greasy, and won’t damage clothing or gear. For more on pros and cons on a variety of tick repellents, check out GLA’s Tick Repellent Roundup.

Some event planners say they bring repellents in different forms to gatherings. Lynn Easton, founder of a special-events firm in Charlottesville and Charleston, South Carolina, says she puts several types of repellent wipes in the guest bathrooms,  while others such as party planner Bill Homan, co-founder of Design Cuisine in Arlington, Virginia says he often offers trays of bracelets made with oils including geraniol, lemon grass and citronella as a natural tick repellent. Chris L. Fuentes, founder and CEO of Ranger Ready Repellents, based in South Norwalk, Connecticut, says often party-planners create spray stations, in which baskets of Ranger Ready products are placed outdoors, away from food, where party goers can easily apply repellent to prevent insect bites and focus on enjoying themselves.

Spray Your Clothes

Most of us are familiar with the admonitions to wear long-pants (tucked into socks), long-sleeved shirts, and a hat. But let’s face it, that kind of get-up in the hot, skin-baring days of summer—especially at an outdoor event—may be difficult if not out of the question. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you wear clothes treated with permethrin, an insecticide produced by the chrysanthemum flower that repels and kills ticks on contact. Or treat your own clothes with a permethrin spray which you can buy online through Amazon and at various retailers and sports stores.

You can also send items directly to Insect Shield and they will treat the clothes—including cocktail attire and wedding dresses—for you. “People send anything and everything to be treated,” said Janine Robertson, an Insect Shield spokesperson. “More people are learning about the need for tick-repellent clothing,” she added, whether it’s in your own backyard, at an outdoor concert, or an outdoor cocktail party.”

Don’t Forget Your Shoes

One way to stop tiny ticks (often as small as a poppy seed) is by wearing shoes that have been sprayed with permethrin. Ticks usually await you in leaf litter or on blades of grass. From there, they latch onto a shoe and start crawling up your body. As a good first line of defense, consider spraying your shoes a day or so before your event. “I went to a pool party wearing open-toed shoes and I made sure to spray my feet and legs with repellent and my shoes with permethrin because I knew there would be a grassy area,” said Westchester, New York’s Staci Grodin, a GLA Board member. “If I know a friend is going to an outdoor party, I always encourage them to spray their shoes.”

ticks_lavenderThe Flower  that Ticks and Mosquitoes Despise

Who doesn’t love fresh flowers? If you are considering a flower centerpiece for an outdoor party, ask your florist to incorporate some soft lavender flowers since ticks and mosquitoes will avoid the flowery scent. Similarly, a bride’s bouquet for an outdoor wedding might include a few sprigs of lavender.

Get The Help of an Exterminator

Most outdoor venues will have trained and licensed technicians come on a regular basis to spray for bugs. But check the time between the last spraying and your particular event. The most effective thing is to have an exterminator on site a few days before your get-together to spray all the usable space. At Jill Gordon Celebrate, a Hamptons firm, for instance, they spray two to three days before a wedding date or other event.

Do a Tick Check

After returning home, do a meticulous tick check of your entire body. Also check your children and pets. Ticks will attach just about anywhere. Pay particular attention to the groin area, naval, armpits, and behind the ears and knees. A tick that’s attached to you may feel like an unfamiliar mole or bump. “Raising awareness is important. We always tell people to be careful and double-check themselves,” says Marcy Blum, a New York event and wedding planner. “No one wants a tick on their body.”

If you do find a tick attached to you, try not to panic. Stay calm and remove it with pointy tweezers or tick removal tool as soon as you can. By removing the tick as quickly as possible, you reduce the chance of infection. Click here to see proper tick removal technique.

For simple tips to help prevent Lyme and other tick-borne diseases–from avoiding tick habitats to using tick repellent, to checking yourself for ticks–visit BeTickAWARE.org “By practicing good tick-bite prevention habits,” says Tyghter, “you’ll make yourselves and your guests safer from the tick threat.”

Written by Rona Cherry for Global Lyme Alliance

Tips for Lyme Disease Prevention at Camp

It’s time for summer camp! Here are 6 easy tips for tick safety and Lyme disease prevention this season.

As staffers, parents and kids prepare for another memorable summer at camp, there is one important detail that must not escape our attention – doing everything possible to ensure that children are protected from the blacklegged ticks that transmit Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne illness in the U.S., with more than 329,000 new cases every year. These tiny ticks, no larger than a poppy seed, are active all year round, but they’re out in force during the summer months. tick_data-lazy-sizesUnsurprisingly, children are at particular risk for tick bites, especially as they spend time outdoors at camp. Unfortunately, these “nymphs” are so tiny, they’re often difficult to spot.

So, here are some suggestions to help protect campers and staff from tick-borne diseases:

  1. Know where ticks live. Ticks thrive in shady, wooded areas, taller grasses and leaf piles. When you plan outdoor activities, avoid having kids lean against tree trunks, sit on grass or on fallen logs. Ask campers to stay in the middle of hiking paths to avoid brushing against foliage and long grasses.
  2. Recommend tick-repellent clothing. While children are at camp, it is strongly recommended they wear clothing treated with permethrin, an insecticide that repels and kills ticks and mosquitos on contact. Its formula is safe and EPA-approved, and can be used on clothing worn by children. Parents can spray it on their child’s clothes at home or can purchase pre-treated clothing and gear with the Insect Shield label from retailers such as LL Bean or REI. Parents can also send clothing directly to Insect Shield to be treated.
  3. Don’t forget to spray shoes. Since most ticks crawl onto people from the ground, spraying closed-toe footwear with permethrin is one of the best defenses against ticks. (One study found that those with treated shoes had 74% fewer tick bites that those with untreated shoes).
  4. Make sure campers use repellent on exposed skin. Studies show that EPA-approved repellents containing 20%-30% DEET, 20% Picaridin or 30% natural Lemon Eucalyptus oil are the most effective.
  5. Do full body tick checks. Tick bites are painless so it’s important for campers to perform regular tick checks after being outdoors and at night before bedtime. Teach campers to pay particular attention to areas between the toes, behind the knees and ears, armpits, groin, belly button, neck, hair and scalp.
  6. Know what symptoms to look for. Camp nurses and counselors should look for flu-like symptoms following a tick bite. Staff should also be sure to check smaller children for ticks and signs of Lyme.

This post, written by Scott Santarella, CEO, Global Lyme Alliance was first published by the American Camp AssociationFor more information about ticks and other tick-bourne illnesses, check out the ACA’s Ticks – What Every Camp Needs to Know.