Across New Mexico, ticks threaten the health of dogs. Because harmful tick-borne diseases are on the rise, it’s important to know the facts about ticks and the diseases they spread and how to combat them.

Rhipicephalus sanguineus Life Series Photograph. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All life stages of the brown dog tick with partially and fully engorged adult females. 

Prevalence and Types of Ticks

Tick prevalence, along with the diseases they transmit, is rising in New Mexico and all over the world. At the time of writing, the Companion Animal Parasite Council forecasts risk of canine tick-borne disease (TBD) in New Mexico as high¹. Although the CAPC lists no state as low risk, New Mexico’s risk is higher than many others. This is a growing problem. 

A study published earlier this year² designed to assess climate change’s effect on the brown dog tick’s movement notes an increase in certain areas in the Americas. It also predicts that habitat suitability will continue to increase over the next several decades.

Another research study³ shows that even short-term heat waves may be enough for rapid increases in spreading TBD. Considering these models, all this means more ticks and more disease will continue to show up in more areas of New Mexico and across the country. 

Various types of tick species populate the country. The most common in New Mexico and in the United States is the Rhipicephalus sanguineus—the brown dog tick. Other ticks found in New Mexico include the black-legged tick (deer tick) and the lone star tick. All have potential to carry and transmit dangerous disease.

Environment and Life Stages of Ticks

Ticks live in wooded and grassy areas including cool areas around yards and homes. They can live and hang out anywhere vegetation (including leaf litter) is present, typically in shaded areas. They hitch rides on hosts on whom they attach and feed before dropping off. Because of their size and stealth, ticks can feed on and infect dogs and fall off all without detection. 

Most ticks have a 4-stage life: egg, larva, nymph, and adult⁴. During each of the larva, nymph, and adult stages ticks attach to a host to feed. Most often, though not always, ticks choose a new host for each life stage, generously spreading disease. Once the adult female tick drops off its host, it rests and lays its eggs, which begins a new cycle. It can take as little as 3 hours for a tick to transmit disease once attached⁴.

Tick-Borne Diseases

Ticks can transmit several diseases to dogs, including those caused by various bacteria such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Babesia, Ehrlichiosis, and Anaplasmosis.  

Unchecked, TBDs can cause kidney and heart damage, neurological issues, joint inflammation, lameness, and death. 

Symptoms of TBD can vary by stage. Most are non-specific to TBDs and may include:

  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • lethargy/malaise
  • shifting from one leg to another
  • lameness
  • decreased or lack of appetite 
  • reluctance to move 
  • enlarged lymph nodes 
  • bruising 
  • discharge from nose or eyes 

Symptoms of TBDs can show up months after infection. In some cases, dogs with TBDs present no symptoms.  

Treatment and Prevention of Tick-borne Disease

Properly removing ticks is necessary to reduce the chances of leaving tick parts in the skin and causing infection of the feed site. Use tweezers to grip the tick, without crushing or twisting it, as close to the skin as possible and carefully pull it straight out. If you don’t feel confident you can pull it out correctly, seek veterinary assistance immediately. If you find a tick (even if you remove it) or notice any symptoms that could indicate a TBD, make an appointment for disease screening. This is the best way for earliest detection and treatment.  

Treatment for dogs that test positive for a TBD often include antibiotics, as most of the diseases transmitted are bacteria caused. Depending on the severity of the disease, dogs may also require supportive care including pain medications, anti-inflammatories, and intravenous fluids. 

Avoiding tick bites is the best way to reduce the risk of TBDs. This means protecting dogs throughout the year with appropriate flea and tick preventatives. 

A note about fleas: 

Fleas are also an issue in New Mexico. These tiny creatures are more than springy annoyances. Like ticks, fleas can spread harmful disease to pets such as dermatitis, Bartonella henselae (known as cat scratch disease), and tapeworms. Fleas can infest pets and won’t stop there. An infested home can take months to clear⁵

With the increase in tick prevalence resulting in more habitable environments, the risk of disease also increases. Because of their size and behavior patterns, detection is difficult and often comes too late (if at all) to prevent infection. The damaging, serious nature of tick-borne diseases in dogs calls for an effective preventative. Give us a call or email us to talk about the best preventative options for your pet.   

  1. Council CAP. Forecast landing. Pet Disease Alerts. Published August 4, 2021.
  2. Pérez MS, Arroyo TPF, Venegas-Barrera CS, et al. Predicting the Impact of Climate Change on the Distribution of Rhipicephalus sanguineus in the Americas. Sustainability. 2023;15(5):4557. doi:10.3390/su15054557
  3. Backus L, Pérez A, Foley JE. Effect of Temperature on Host Preference in Two Lineages of the Brown Dog Tick, Rhipicephalus sanguineus. American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. 2021;104(6):2305-2311. doi:10.4269/ajtmh.20-1376
  4. Dantas-Torres F, Otranto D. Rhipicephalus sanguineus (Brown dog tick). Trends in Parasitology. 2022;38(11):993-994. doi:10.1016/
  5. Getting rid of fleas | CDC. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published August 13, 2020.

Photo: Rhipicephalus sanguineus Life Series Photograph. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

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