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Vaccination Schedules for Dogs and Puppies

Vaccines are now being divided into two classes. 'Core' vaccines for dogs are those that should be given to every dog. 'Noncore' vaccines are recommended only for certain dogs. Whether to vaccinate with noncore vaccines depends upon a number of things including the age, breed, and health status of the dog, the potential exposure of the dog to an animal that has the disease, the type of vaccine and how common the disease is in the geographical area where the dog lives or may visit.

The AVMA Council on Biologic and Therapeutic Agents' Report on Cat and Dog Vaccines has recommended that the core vaccines for dogs include distemper, canine adenovirus-2 (hepatitis and respiratory disease), canine parvovirus-2and rabies.

Noncore vaccines include leptospirosis, coronavirus, canine parainfluenza and Bordetella bronchiseptica (both are causes of 'kennel cough'), and Borrelia burgdorferi (causes Lyme Disease). Consult with your veterinarian to select the proper vaccines for your dog or puppy.

AVMA Vaccination Recommendations for Dogs

Vaccination Recommendations for Dogs
Length of Immunity
Risk/Severity of Adverse Effects

High in preventing disease, but not in preventing infection
Use in high risk environments for canine distemper in puppies 4-10 weeks of age
> 1 year

> 1 year
Only use canine adenovirus-2 (CAV-2) vaccines
Dependent upon type of vaccine
Low to moderate

Not adequately studied
If vaccination warranted, boost annually or more frequently
Intranasal MLV - Moderate Injectable MLV - Low
Only recommended for dogs in kennels, shelters, shows, or large colonies; If vaccination warranted, boost annually or more frequently
Intranasal MLV - Moderate Injectable MLV - Low
For the most benefit, use intranasal vaccine 2 weeks prior to exposure
Up to 30% of dogs may not respond to vaccine
Risk of exposure high in kennels, shelters, shows, breeding facilities
Appears to be limited to previously unexposed dogs; variable
Revaccinate annually

A possible vaccination schedule for the 'average' dog is shown below.
Dog Vaccination Schedule
5 weeks
Parvovirus: for puppies at high risk of exposure to parvo, some veterinarians recommend vaccinating at 5 weeks. Check with your veterinarian.
6 & 9 weeks
Combination vaccine* without leptospirosis. 
Coronavirus: where coronavirus is a concern.
12 weeks or older
Rabies: Given by your local veterinarian (age at vaccination may vary according to local law).
12 & 15 weeks**
Combination vaccine 
Leptospirosis: include leptospirosis in the combination vaccine where leptospirosis is a concern, or if traveling to an area where it occurs. 
Coronavirus: where coronavirus is a concern. 
Lyme: where Lyme disease is a concern or if traveling to an area where it occurs.
Adult (boosters)§
Combination vaccine 
Leptospirosis: include leptospirosis in the combination vaccine where leptospirosis is a concern, or if traveling to an area where it occurs. 
Coronavirus: where coronavirus is a concern. 
Lyme: where Lyme disease is a concern or if traveling to an area where it occurs. 
Rabies: Given by your local veterinarian (time interval between vaccinations may vary according to local law).
*A combination vaccine, often called a 5-way vaccine, usually includes adenovirus cough and hepatitis, distemper, parainfluenza, and parvovirus. Some combination vaccines may also include leptospirosis (7-way vaccines) and/or coronavirus. The inclusion of either canine adenovirus-1 or adenovirus-2 in a vaccine will protect against both adenovirus cough and hepatitis; adenovirus-2 is highly preferred.
**Some puppies may need additional vaccinations against parvovirus after 15 weeks of age. Consult with your local veterinarian.
§ According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, dogs at low risk of disease exposure may not need to be boostered yearly for most diseases. Consult with your local veterinarian to determine the appropriate vaccination schedule for your dog. Remember, recommendations vary depending on the age, breed, and health status of the dog, the potential of the dog to be exposed to the disease, the type of vaccine, whether the dog is used for breeding, and the geographical area where the dog lives or may visit.
Bordetella and parainfluenza: For complete canine cough protection, we recommend Intra-Trac II ADT. For dogs that are shown, in field trials, or are boarded, we recommend vaccination every six months with Intra-Trac II ADT.
Researchers at the Veterinary Schools at the University of Minnesota, Colorado State Univers
Researchers at the Veterinary Schools at the University of Minnesota, Colorado State University, and University of Wisconsin suggest alternating vaccinations in dogs from year to year. Instead of using multivalent vaccines (combination vaccines against more than one disease), they recommend using monovalent vaccines which only have one component, e.g., a vaccine that only contains parvovirus. So, one year your dog would be vaccinated against distemper, the next year against canine adenovirus-2, and the third year against parvovirus. Then the cycle would repeat itself. Other researchers believe we may not have enough information to recommend only vaccinating every 3 years. Manufacturers of dog vaccines have not changed their labeling which recommends annual vaccinations. Again, each dog owner must make an informed choice of when to vaccinate, and with what. Consult with your veterinarian to help you make the decision.

Core Dog Vaccinations

Young puppies are highly susceptible to certain infectious diseases and should be vaccinated against them as soon as they are old enough to build immunity. These diseases are distemper, infectious hepatitis, parvovirus, parainfluenza, and rabies.Leptospirosis, giardia, coronavirus, bordetella, bronchiseptica, and Lyme diseasevaccinations are optional, depending on the occurrence of these diseases in your area and your dog’s individual risk factors.

The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) has drawn up guidelines categorizing vaccines as core or noncore, and these categories will be indicated for all the vaccines described in this section. While these guidelines suggest that puppies as young as 6 weeks may be vaccinated, most veterinarians and breeders wait until 7 or 8 weeks of age. Also, vaccine recommendations state that many vaccines do not need boosters beyond 12 weeks of age, but veterinarians, particularly in endemic disease areas, may do a final puppy vaccine at about 16 weeks.

Canine Distemper (Core)

A recombinant distemper vaccine is now available and, ideally, dogs will receive either an MLV or a recombinant version of distemper vaccine.

The first distemper shot should be given shortly after weaning and before a puppy is placed in his new home and is exposed to other dogs. Some veterinarians recommend vaccinating puppies at 5 to 6 weeks of age, using a combination canine distemper-measles-parainfluenza vaccine. The rationale for combining distemper and measles vaccines is that a high percentage of 6-week-old puppies do not get a satisfactory response from the distemper vaccine alone because of maternal antibodies that neutralize the distemper antigen. The measles virus, which is quite similar to the distemper virus, can overcome maternal antibody interference and induce partial distemper protection. Alternatively, if maternal antibodies have actually disappeared in the 6-week-old puppy, the distemper portion of the vaccine will induce complete protection.

The distemper-measles vaccine should be used only once, for the first vaccination, and only in puppies. The newer recombinant distemper vaccine seems to overcome maternal antibodies and is now believed to be a better option than the distemper-measles combination.

Postvaccination encephalitis has occasionally occurred when an MLV distemper vaccine has been used in combination with a parvovirus vaccine in pups younger than 6 to 8 weeks of age. Therefore, parvovirus vaccine should not be given along with the first distemper vaccination in very young puppies. The recombinant distemper vaccine is unlikely to cause encephalitis, and is therefore recommended for young puppies.

Puppies younger than 8 to 9 weeks of age should be revaccinated every four weeks until they are 16 weeks of age. Current recommendations are to revaccinate at 1 year of age or in a year from the last vaccination, and then every three years. This time period may be extended with future research data on duration of immunity.

Infectious Hepatitis (Core)

The infectious hepatitis vaccine is a MLV vaccine containing CAV-2. This vaccine protects against canine hepatitis and two of the adenoviruses involved in the kennel cough complex (CAV-1 and CAV-2).

Hepatitis vaccine is incorporated into the DHPP shot, which is given at 8 to 12 weeks of age and again at 16 weeks of age with a possible booster in between for puppies who were initially vaccinated at 8 weeks of age or younger. It is suggested that a DHPP booster be given at 1 year of age or one year from the last vaccine. Revaccination is currently recommended every three years, although initial immunity may persist for life.
Canine Parvovirus (Core)

Commercially available vaccines effectively cross-protect against all the current strains of parvo, including variant strains. The MLV vaccine is much more effective than a killed vaccine in that it produces a faster and stronger immune response.

Because the age at which individual pups can respond to parvovirus vaccination varies, AAHA 2006 guidelines are to give the vaccine at 6 to 8 weeks of age, then every three to four weeks until the dog is 12 to 14 weeks of age, but many veterinarians prefer to wait until a puppy is 7 or 8 weeks of age to start parvo vaccinations and conclude them at 16 weeks.

High titer-low passage vaccines (see page 91) are more effective than older vaccines, even in the presence of maternal antibodies, and have narrowed the window of susceptibility that occurs between declining levels of maternal antibodies and acquired immunity produced by the vaccine. This has resulted in fewer vaccine failures.

Even after a pup has received his first series of vaccinations, he should not be exposed to dogs who may be a source of infection until after he receives his final vaccination at 16 weeks of age. Boosters are recommended every three years to maintain immunity, following an initial booster at one year. This interval may be increased with further research on vaccine efficacy.

In unvaccinated dogs older than 16 weeks, give two doses of vaccine two weeks apart. Brood bitches should be vaccinated two to four weeks before breeding to ensure high levels of antibodies in their colostrum. Some veterinarians believe this booster is unnecessary.
Rabies (Core)

The first rabies vaccination should be given at 3 to 6 months of age, with the first booster shot given one year later (at 15 months of age). Thereafter, give boosters annually or every three years, according to state and local statutes. Rabies vaccination schedules are regulated by law.

How Often Should My Dog Receive Vaccinations?

What Vaccinations Should My Dog Get?

 You can read links to toseveral serious diseases ofdogs that veterinarians prevent with their vaccinations.

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Here Is Some General Information About Vaccines You Should Know:

How Long Will It Be Before My Pet Is Protected ?

It can take a full 14 days after vaccination before your should trust that your pet is fully protected. The vaccine itself does not protect your dog. Your pet must make antibodies of it's own to the virus or bacterial product that was introduced by the vaccine. That is why vaccination just before boarding or exposure to a disease is a waste of time.

Does The Quality of Vaccines Differ ?

Yes, products sold in feed stores are often of lower quality. When these stores sell Nationally respected brands, the products have been diverted from legitimate sales to veterinarians. In that case, there is always the risk that they may not have been shipped or stored properly. Many vaccines contain live, but weakened, disease organisms. Those organisms must be living to be effective. If vaccines are stored in areas that are too warm, or exposed to too much sunlight, they can loose their effectiveness.

Do We Give Our Pets Too Many Vaccines?


Just like children, puppies need vaccination at the proper time or they will be susceptible to illnesses. But yearly vaccination for many disease is entirely too often. Please read an article on the subject regarding cats. The same facts about over-vaccination apply to dogs. We are just luck that dogs don't get the number of vaccination-associated tumors that cats do.

The exceptions are vaccine against leptospirosis, which seem to only last a year and vaccination against kennel cough (which last six months to a year) and vaccinations against Lyme disease. When your pet is likely to be exposed to these pathogens, it will need booster vaccinations at regular intervals. However, injecting these foreign-protein containing products into your pet is not without risk so you should consider how likely exposure really is in your pet's specific case. Sometimes the risks out weight the possible benefits. Kennel cough is not a fatal disease. Leptospirosis usually requires exposure to stagnant standing water, wildlife or vermin (rats) - so the risk to a pet like an indoor poodle is low, while the risk to a dog taken into rural settings is much higher. The risk to your pets also increases when you or your neighbors feed urban wildlife (raccoons).

Some owners give their pets Lyme disease vaccine every year. Pets get this disease from ticks. If you are very fearful of catching it from your pet, that is a valid option. But my suggestion is that before you decide, see if there is actually a high incidence of Lyme disease in pets or wildlife where you live. You can view a map of the areas of the United States where your pet is most likely to be exposed to Lyme disease . We know that Lyme vaccine has the potential of causing adverse effects including generalized arthritis, allergy and other immune diseases, so it should not be given needlessly.

Another commonly administered vaccine is for kennel cough (bordetella,etc.). This is usually a mild and transient disease - often contracted during boarding or grooming or at dog shows. Your pet may not need this vaccine since not all pets visit breeding or boarding kennels, most do not go to dog shows and most pets have only occasional contact with dogs outside their immediate family. Also, the immunity this vaccine imparts is quite short-lived. I recommend this vaccine only when owners anticipate a likely exposure. I suggest it more frequently in toy breeds in which coughing can persist for quite some time due to the narrow tracheas (windpipe) common in these breeds. These small pets also tend to spend more time at the groomer and kennels where kennel cough disease lurks.

What Are Adjuvants ?

Adjuvants are compounds that are added to vaccines in an attempt to increase their effectiveness. I no longer use vaccines that contain them because they have caused so many side effects. At least one company, (Intervet), offers a non-adjuvanted 3-year vaccines. This is the vaccine that I most often use in dogs. It appears to contain none of the adjuvants that might cause cancer or immunological disease later in life. Other good choices are vaccines which require no needle injections such as Merial's products (Purevax) that use recombinant canarypox vector vaccine technology. All these products have been on the market for too short a period to make long-term judgements. I would prefer that your pet receive a rabies vaccine that also contains no adjuvants. But even non-adjuvanted injectable vaccines are not risk-free. If your dog has had prior vaccine reactions, think seriously before having any vaccines administered and be sure that your veterinarian jots down the brand name and lot number of the vaccines that have been given.

When Should My Puppy Get It's Shots ?

When it comes to puppies most veterinarians are in agreement. Puppies should receive their first canine distemper, canine adenovirus (infectious canine hepatitis) andcanine parvovirus at 7-9 weeks of age, then at 12-13 weeks of age, and finally at 16-18 weeks of age to insure they are solidly protected against these diseases. Shots given earlier than 9-12 weeks usually do not work because they are blocked by residual immunity passed on from its mother. This is because antibody from the puppy's mother is usually still in their bodies. But in rare occasions there is not enough of it to protect the puppy if it is exposed to these diseases. So rather than take that risk, veterinarians usually give them all an early vaccination. An alternative is to have the puppy's antibody level checked instead. But that procedure is more expensive and time consuming than just giving the vaccine.

I generally give the intranasal kennel cough (bordatella) vaccine at 12 and 18 weeks of age. At 12-16 weeks of age I give puppies a killed three-year rated rabies virus vaccination (such as Merial's Imrab-1).

Veterinarians differ on when they give these vaccinations. But my schedule has worked well for me and my clients.

What Vaccinations Should My Adult Pet Get ?

With the exceptions I have mentioned (Kennel Cough, Leptospirosis, Lyme) adult dogs do not need to be vaccinated more than every three years.

Rabies is a special cases.The problem are state laws that mandate yearly rabies vaccination. You need to obey those laws for the benefit of the human and dog-population of your State as a whole. If States allowed exceptions, rabies could get out of control. Several rabies vaccines are federally certified for three years of protection (such as Imrab-3) . However, many states disregard these federal guidelines and require yearly vaccination. When yearly rabies vaccination is mandated, I prefer thiomersal-free, non-adjuvanted vaccine.

Until recently, veterinarians simply gave all dogs booster shots every year. This is what the vaccine manufacturers suggested. Besides, it brought our clientele back to our animal hospitals yearly, which increased our income and gave us the opportunity to detect problems early before the owners were aware of them. Most veterinarians do a thorough physical examination on pets at the time of their yearly vaccinations and we often detect problems during the exam. Also, by law, most states require a yearly rabies vaccination even though studies have shown that many of the rabies vaccines we use give us three years of protection.

Many veterinarians, myself included, were suspicious that the vaccines we used were giving much longer periods of protection than one year. We knew this because we never saw distemper, hepatitis or parvovirus disease in dogs that had been vaccinated - even many years earlier.

Part of the problem involved the typical fee structures of veterinary practices. We tended to undercharge for complex surgery and subsidize those procedures with the money we earn on yearly vaccinations. I do not know how this practice came about, but it has existed at least since the 1950’s. There was also an incentive for vaccine manufacturers to sell more vaccine if boosters were recommended annually. There was also a one-year mind set among the staff the USDA and FDA. It has been taken to the extreme, to the point where there is now a two-year expiration date on a vial of water.

There are many risks associated with too frequent vaccinations. For one, the immune system of your pet is stressed by these vaccinations. Occasional dogs develop allergic reactions, facial swelling, stomach and intestinal upsets, mopiness, fevers, itching, nausea and coughing after they receive a shot. But we also suspect that vaccinations trigger certain autoimmune diseases such as Addison’s disease in dogs.

Occasionally these reactions are life threatening (ref). Vaccines contain many ingredients besides the dried virus. Some of these, antibiotics and adjuvants (enhancers) are implicated in vaccine reactions. If I am suspicious that a dog might have a reaction to a particular vaccine, I pre-administer antihistamines (Benadryl) and give a minute test dose of 0.05ml. If the dog is normal thirty minutes after the test dose, I give it the remaining one-milliliter. However, even this small test dose has caused reactions in some animals.

High-risk dogs

High-risk dogs are dogs that roam or take unsupervised strolls; dogs that play with other dogs that are not from their household, dogs that have contact with wild animals, or swim and drink from pools puddles and streams. Other high-risk dogs are coprophagic (eat stool). Some are more at risk because they attend dog shows, field trials and other activities that expose them to greater stress and disease than most pets. For these dogs, you and your veterinarian need to work out an individual vaccination plan or better yet, have the pet's antibody levels checked yearly. 

Newer Information

In a 2007study  , scientists studied the lengh of time vaccination immunity persisted in humans. We know that the immune system's memmory in all mammals, cats-dogs-and-people is very similar. Measles, for example, is a virus very much like distemper of dogs. The immunity confired by a two-dose series measles vaccine lasts a human lifetime. Vaccina (cow pox), mumps, Epstein-Barr virus, varicella/zoster and rubella also last a lifetime; tetanus 11, years, diphteria 19yrs. So although no studies have followed dogs or cats that long, veterinarians have no reason to suspect that their immunity would be shorter lasting.

Dog Diseases: A Quick Guide To Fight The Early Symptoms

Like all the domestic animals, dogs are susceptible to many diseases. So in order to keep them healthy, it is necessary to understand the various diseases they can suffer from.

Like all the domestic animals, dogs are susceptible to many diseases. So in order to keep them healthy, it is necessary to understand the various diseases they can suffer from. Here is your quick guide on common dog diseases:

Rabies: This disease is caused due to a virus which affects the central nervous system of the dog. It generally spreads through the saliva. Rabies has several stages. In the first stage, there appears some behavior changes in your dog. As it reaches the second stage, the dog becomes very aggressive and by the third stage the body parts of the dog stop coordinating with each other. Once encountered the disease, there remains no cure.

Distempter: This is considered as the biggest threat to the whole population of the dog species. The symptoms are heavy nasal discharge, congestion in the chest, weight loss, coughing, gunky eyes and diarrhea. As the disease reaches its later stages, it has a direct effect on the nervous system of the dog causing paralysis. It is a contagious disease and the virus can be encountered by the air. Even by coming in contact with the excretion of the infected dog, the healthy dog can get afflicted. Once the dog is infected, then there is no cure for the disease. This deadly disease can be prevented by giving a proper vaccination to the dog.

Bloat: It is a serious disorder in a dog, wherein there occurs a twisting in the stomach of the animal. It generally occurs due to over eating. If the dog appears restless and depressed with dry heaves, then you must treat him for bloat.

Parvovirus: This virus is a fast killer as the symptoms can be seen in the dogs within hours of the virus attack, even killing the dog within 48-72 hours. It is a contagious disease and directly attacks the intestinal tract of the dog's digestive system. The effect of the virus can also be seen on the heart of the dog. The symptoms include depression, severe form of diarrhea, vomiting and also loss of appetite. In this disease the color of the feacel matter changes and often have blood stains.

Canine Viral Hepatitis: This disease directly targets the kidney, the liver and the blood vessels of the dog. The symptoms include loss in appetite, intense thirst, vomiting and hemorrhages. The virus of the disease spreads through the faecel matter of the other dogs. The dogs can be prevented from this disease by administering them with the vaccination.

Kennel Cough: This is the most common respiratory disease among the dogs, wherein a typical kind of cough can be seen in the dogs. If given proper treatment, the disorder can be mended.

Leptospirosis: It is a bacterial disease. It spreads through the excretion of the animals. If human beings any how come in contact with this virus, they can also be infected. There is not one but several species of bacterias that produce this disease in dogs. The common symptoms of this disease are kidney inflammation, lethargy, conjuctivita, low grade fever and even sometimes clotting of blood. If the disease is more chronic the symptoms can be jaundice, pneumonia and intestinal inflammation.

Retinal Dysplasia: It is a disorder where there is an abnormal development of the retina. There occurs folds in the outer layers of the retina. It is the most common type of disease that is present in most of the breeds of dogs. A minor form of dysplasia causes minor vision problems, whereas an acute one can lead to total blindness in dogs. Cataract is also accompanied by this disorder.

Lyme Disease: It is a bacterial disease that is spread by ticks. The dog suffers from joint pains, loss of appetite, fever and lethargy. Tetracycline, an antibiotic is used for the treatment of this disease.

It is thus important to detect early symptoms of these diseases in your pet dogs and meet your vet as soon as possible. This will not only keep your dog healthy but will also keep it away from any of the life threatening diseases.

FAQ About fatal dog illness

What clinical signs are associated with Seasonal Canine Illness?

The most common are vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach pains, reluctance to move, loss of appetite, shaking or trembling, and in some cases high temperature. These signs can appear quickly, between 24 and 72 hours of having walked in a woodland area.

What should I do if my dog experiences any of the these signs?

Contact your vet immediately.

Can it be passed to other dogs?

There is no evidence at the moment that Seasonal Canine Illness can be passed from dog to dog. In some cases dog owners with more than one dog have only had one case, even when all the dogs walked together. In other cases, all dogs that have been walked together have been affected. However, until the cause is found the possibility that the disease is contagious cannot be ruled out.

What is the risk of my dog being affected?

At the moment, it is difficult to assess the risk of dogs being affected as the cause of Seasonal Canine Illness remains unknown. The risk is probably lower in winter and spring with very few cases being reported between the end of November and the end of August. The majority of cases are reported in September and October, however it is important to remember that even during these months only a small proportion of dogs walking in woodland areas are affected.

What are the likely causes?

There are a number of theories; none of them have been confirmed. Research is still ongoing.

What is being done in the way of testing?

The Environment Agency tested natural water sources in some affected areas for the presence of blue-green algae. The test results were negative.

Natural England tested samples in some affected areas in Nottinghamshire and ruled out manufactured poisons (carbamates, metaldehyde, organophosphates, paraquat, diquat, rodenticides and strychnine).

What advice is being given about walking with dogs in woodland areas?

The advice is to be vigilant and if you have any concerns, contact your vet immediately. Although the evidence suggests it is a seasonal illness it is best to stay vigilant at all times of the year.

Common Ticks information

Although ticks are commonly thought of as insects, they are actually arachnids like scorpions, spiders and mites. All members of this group have four pairs of legs as adults and have no antennae. 

Adult insects have three pairs of legs and one pair of antennae. Ticks are among the most efficient carriers of disease because they attach firmly when sucking blood, feed slowly and may go unnoticed for a considerable time while feeding. Ticks take several days to complete feeding.

Ticks have four life stages: egg, six-legged larva, eight-legged nymph and adult. After the egg hatches, the tiny larva (sometimes called a “seed tick”) feeds on an appropriate host. The larva then develops (molts) into the larger nymph. The nymph feeds on a host and then molts into an even larger adult. Both male and female adults find and feed on a host, then the females lay eggs sometime after feeding.

Ticks wait for host animals from the tips of grasses and shrubs (not from trees). When brushed by a moving animal or person, they quickly let go of the vegetation and climb onto the host. Ticks can only crawl; they cannot fly or jump. Ticks found on the scalp have usually crawled there from lower parts of the body. Some species of ticks will crawl several feet toward a host. Ticks can be active on winter days when the ground temperatures are about 45o Fahrenheit.

There are two groups of ticks, sometimes called the “hard” ticks and “soft” ticks. Hard ticks, like the common dog tick, have a hard shield just behind the mouthparts (sometimes incorrectly called the “head”); unfed hard ticks are shaped like a flat seed. Soft ticks do not have the hard shield and they are shaped like a large raisin. Soft ticks prefer to feed on birds or bats and are seldom encountered unless these animals are nesting or roosting in an occupied building.

Although at least 15 species of ticks occur in Illinois, only a few of these ticks are likely to be encountered by people: American dog tick, lone star tick, blacklegged (deer) tick, brown dog tick and winter tick.

American Dog Tick (Dermacentor variabilis) 
One of the most frequently encountered ticks is the American dog tick, also sometimes known as the wood tick. The larvae and nymphs feed on small warm-blooded animals such as mice and birds. The adult American dog tick will feed on humans and medium to large mammals such as raccoons and dogs.

Unfed males and females are reddish-brown and about 3/16-inch long. Females have a large silver-colored spot behind the head and will become ½-inch long after feeding or about the size of a small grape. Males have fine silver lines on the back and do not get much larger after feeding. Males are sometimes mistaken for other species of ticks because they appear so different from the female.

In Illinois, the adults are most active in April, May and June. By September, the adults are inactive and are rarely observed. The American dog tick can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever,tularemia and possibly ehrlichiosis to humans.

Lone Star Tick (Amblyomma americanum) 

The lone star tick is primarily found in the southern half of Illinois, although it can occasionally be found further north. Larvae, nymphs and adults will feed on a variety of warm-blooded hosts, including people. The larva is very tiny, only a little larger than the period at the end of this sentence. The nymph, the most common stage found on people, is about pinhead-sized. Adults are about 1/8-inch long and brown. The adult female has a white spot in the middle of her back. Because they are so similar in size, the lone star tick is sometimes misidentified by laypersons as the blacklegged / deer tick (see below).

The lone star tick is most active from April through the end of July. Although it can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever, the lone star tick is not as likely to transmit the disease as the American dog tick. This tick also may transmit tularemia and ehrlichiosis to humans. The lone star tick is not believed to transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi), but may be associated with a related bacteria species that has not been completely identified.

Blacklegged Tick, also known as the Deer Tick (Ixodes scapularis) 

All three active stages of the blacklegged / deer tick will feed on a variety of hosts including people. After the eggs hatch in the spring, the very tiny larvae feed primarily on white-footed mice or other small mammals. The following spring, the larvae molt into pinhead-sized, brown nymphs that will feed on mice, larger warm-blooded animals and people. In the fall, they molt into adults that feed primarily on deer, with the females laying eggs the following spring. Adults are reddish-brown and about 1/8-inch long (or about one-half the size of the more familiar female American dog tick).

These ticks are found in wooded areas along trails. The larvae and nymphs are active in the spring and early summer; adults may be active in both the spring and fall. The blacklegged / deer tick can transmit Lyme disease and possibly ehrlichiosis to humans.

The deer tick has been found sporadically in many Illinois counties. However, in recent years it has been common only in limited areas, mostly in northern Illinois (Geographic distribution by county). Additionally, Illinois residents may encounter the deer tick during trips to Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin or the northeastern United States where it is very common in some areas.

Brown Dog Tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus) 
The brown dog tick (also known as the kennel tick) is found through most of the United States This tick feeds on dogs, but rarely bites people. Unlike the other species of ticks, its life cycle allows it to survive and develop indoors. The brown dog tick is found primarily in kennels or homes with dogs where it may be found hiding in cracks, behind radiators, under rugs and furniture, and on draperies and walls.

The adult is reddish-brown and about 1/8-inch long, and usually attaches around the ears or between the toes of a dog to feed. After feeding, a female may engorge to ½-inch long. She then drops off the dog and crawls into a hiding place where she may lay as many as 3,000 eggs. This tick is tropical in origin and does not survive Illinois winters outdoors. The brown dog tick is not an important carrier of human disease.

Winter Tick (Dermacentor albipictus) 

The winter tick is a species that feeds on large mammals like deer, cattle and horses. Unlike the hard ticks mentioned above, the winter tick attaches to the host as a larva and remains attached throughout its life. Consequently, this tick is rarely encountered by campers or hikers. However, hunters may find the winter tick in large numbers on deer carcasses. Although the winter tick may carry diseases of large wild mammals, it is not known to transmit disease to humans.

Preventing Tick Bites and Disease

The best way to protect yourself against tickborne illness is to avoid tick bites. This includes avoiding known tick- infested areas. However, if you live in or visit wooded areas or areas with tall grass and weeds, follow these precautions to help prevent tick bites and decrease the risk of disease:
Wear protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts, long trousers, boots or sturdy shoes and a head covering. (Ticks are easier to detect on light-colored clothing.) Tuck trouser cuffs in socks. Tape the area where pants and socks meet so ticks cannot crawl under clothing. 

Apply insect repellent containing 10 percent to 30 percent DEET primarily to clothes. Apply sparingly to exposed skin. Do not spray directly to the face; spray the repellent onto hands and then apply to face. Avoid sensitive areas like the eyes, mouth and nasal membranes. Be sure to wash treated skin after coming indoors. Use repellents containing permethrin to treat clothes (especially pants, socks and shoes) but not skin. Always follow label directions; do not misuse or overuse repellents. Always supervise children in the use of repellents.

Walk in the center of trails so weeds do not brush against you. In camping areas, individuals who sit on the ground or disturb leaf litter on the forest floor may encounter ticks. 

Check yourself, children and other family members every two to three hours for ticks. Most ticks seldom attach quickly and rarely transmit disease organisms until they have been attached four or more hours. If your pets spend time outdoors, check them for ticks, too. 

If ticks are crawling on the outside of clothes, they can be removed with masking tape or cellophane tape. A ring of tape can be made around the hand by leaving the sticky side out and attaching the two ends. Ticks will stick to the tape which can then be folded over and then placed in the trash. 

Remove any tick promptly. The mouthparts of a tick are barbed and may remain embedded and lead to infection at the bite site if not removed promptly. Do not burn the tick with a match or cover it with petroleum jelly or nail polish. Do not use bare hands to remove the tick because tick secretions may carry disease. The best way to remove a tick is to grasp it firmly with tweezers as close to the skin as possible and gently, but firmly, pull it straight out. Do not twist or jerk the tick. If tweezers are not available, grasp the tick with a piece of tissue or cloth or whatever can be used as a barrier between your fingers and the tick. Ticks can be safely disposed of by placing them in a container of soapy water or alcohol, sticking them to tape or flushing them down the toilet. If you want to have the tick identified, put it in a small vial of alcohol. 

Wash the bite area and your hands thoroughly with soap and water and apply an antiseptic to the bite site.

If you have an unexplained illness with fever, contact a physician. Be sure to tell the physician if you have been outdoors in areas where ticks were present or traveled to areas where tickborne diseases are common.
Prevention and Control of Ticks Around the Home

Make sure the property around your home is unattractive to ticks. Because ticks are sensitive to dry conditions and do not thrive in short vegetation, they are seldom a problem in well-maintained lawns. Keep your grass mowed and keep weeds cut. Clean up items that attract rodents which can carry ticks, such as spilled birdseed, and hiding places like old wood piles. If ticks are present in vegetation along the edge of the property, insecticides labeled for control of ticks can be applied to small areas of high weeds that cannot be mowed. Often, one or two applications per season will be adequate to control ticks in these areas.

Free-roaming dogs and cats are much more likely to encounter ticks than those that are confined to the home or yard. If ticks are found on pets, contact your veterinarian for information about an appropriate tick treatment. Remove the occasional tick found indoors by vacuuming, seal the vacuum bag and place it in the trash. Owners of kennels or homes infested with the brown dog tick may wish to contact a professional pest control company for assistance.

When to Contact a Physician after a Tick Bite

If you experience a rash that looks like a bull's-eye, or a rash anywhere on the body or an unexplained illness accompanied by fever following a tick bite, you should consult your physician and explain that you were bitten by a tick. Disease carried by ticks can be treated with antibiotics. However, the type of antibiotic can vary and individuals should be treated early in the infection.

Identification of Ticks

During the last several years, about 75 percent of the ticks submitted to Department staff have been identified either as the American dog tick or as the lone star tick. Many people are familiar with the female American dog tick. However, the adults of several species and immature stages must be identified by an entomologist or other professional familiar with ticks. To submit a tick for identification, put it into a leak-proof container with rubbing alcohol along with the date and location where the tick was encountered and contact your local health department for assistance.

This publication is for information and is intended as a guide only. Always read and follow all current label instructions for repellents and pesticides. If any information in these recommendations disagrees with the pesticide label, the label instructions must be followed. For more information, contact the Illinois Department of Public Health, Division of Environmental Health, 525 W. Jefferson St., Springfield, IL 62761; 217-782-5830, TTY (hearing impaired use only) 800-547-0466. Prepared with the assistance of the University of Illinois Extension, University of Illinois Department of Veterinary Pathology and Illinois Natural History Survey.
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