Warm Weather Drives Huge Increase in Tick-Borne Diseases in Pets

April 3, 2012

Boston, Mass., April 3, 2012 – Despite the recent swing back to colder temperatures, Massachusetts has experienced an unseasonably warm spring, which has caused a huge spike in the number of tick-laden dogs coming into Angell Animal Medical Center, as doctors discover that standard preventative treatments have been overrun by the huge population of ticks that survived the mild winter.  In the first three months of 2012 Angell has conducted 1,445 tests for tick-borne illnesses, a nearly 200 percent increase over the 511 performed in the same period last year.


Standard Anti-Tick Preventative Measures Not Enough

The anti-tick treatments on the market today are highly effective at eliminating ticks during the typical New England spring weather, as the vast majority of ticks are killed during the cold winter months.  But record high temperatures in March—coupled with unseasonably warm weather in January and February—have rendered these treatments unable to kill every tick a typical dog may encounter during the month of March.


Said Dr. Doug Brum, who focuses on internal medicine and the treatment of immune-related diseases at Angell: “There’s no question that exposure to ticks is extremely harmful to pets and so far this spring we’re seeing many, many more dogs coming in with ticks—and tick-related diseases—versus the same period in 2011.  We cannot say definitively that the warmer weather is to blame for more tick-related diseases but there’s no question the weather has played a key role in enabling ticks to survive during the usually frigid winter months.  As a result we’re calling on pet owners to be extra vigilant in checking for and removing ticks from their pets.”


Keeping Pets Safe: Vigilance and Early Treatment Are Essential

Doctors at Angell stress the importance of using topical parasiticides (such as Frontline or Advantix) throughout the year as a critical line of defense against ticks and the diseases they carry.  This is especially critical for “at risk” dogs such as those who regularly walk through woodlands.  Pet owners can also visually inspect their dogs for ticks, and remove them by grabbing them with tweezers—as close to the skin as possible—and pulling them straight out.  These “tick checks” are important but must be done in conjunction with other preventative measures to give pet owners confidence that their dogs are free of ticks.


When its Time to See the Vet   

Unfortunately, not every pet can avoid a tick-borne disease, especially during this unusually warm spring.  In fact, 50-75% of dogs in New England may test positive for Lyme disease this year.  Any pet exhibiting symptoms such as lethargy, loss of appetite or lameness in one or more limbs should immediately see their veterinarian.  Also, dogs at especially high risk for tick-borne illnesses should be vaccinated against Lyme disease—which can result in fewer trips to the animal hospital and peace of mind for pet lovers. 


For more information on preventing tick-borne illnesses, particularly Lyme Disease, click here to read an article by Dr. Erika  de Papp, an internal medicine specialist at Angell Animal Medical Center.




Angell Animal Medical Center cares for more than 50,000 animals a year and is one of the most acclaimed veterinary practices in the country. Angell has 67 doctors and an experienced support staff who work as a team to ensure high quality general wellness, emergency and specialty care. With 31 board-certified specialists and technology that includes an MRI specifically designed for animals, Angell is committed to providing a broad range of specialized expertise and experience, but delivers this care with one-on-one compassion that animals and their owners deserve. Angell is open for emergencies 24 hours of every day of the year, and offers night and weekend appointments with our specialty services.