A local veterinarian suggests that it’s important for dog owners to spend a few minutes every day to check through your dog’s fur for pesky ticks and other insects that may prove to be fatal if the pests go undetected.

Dr. Rachel Ashley, a member of the staff at Capeway Veterinary Hospital of Fairhaven, emphasizes that while the deer tick is very prevalent throughout New England, there are several other tick species that are found in the area. Deer ticks carry Lyme disease, which can be transmitted not only to dogs but also to humans.

The veterinarian, a graduate of Bishop Stang High School, earned her undergraduate degree at Florida State University before completing a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree at the University of Florida. The Rochester native, who grew up on a cranberry farm, joined the veterinary practice at Capeway two years ago.

“Every year there are more and more cases of tick-related diseases,” she said. “We are the ‘hot spot’ for Lyme disease.”

Ashley adds that the abundance of wildlife places the region at high risk. She urges owners to check their dog’s fur even in sub-zero weather, adding that ticks like to grab onto a canine’s fur in a process called “questing.”

“Questing is a behavior exhibited by hard ticks as a way of increasing the chances of coming in to contact with a suitable mammal host,” Ashley said. “The behavior involves the tick ‘climbing up a blade of grass or other structure and then waiting with its front legs outstretched.’”

The veterinarian emphasizes, “I recommend that all dogs that live in New England receive a Lyme disease vaccine. It’s a big deal.”

She adds that cats less commonly contract tick-borne diseases in this area and when they do, tend not to be related to Lyme disease.

According to Ashley, dogs should also be annually tested for Ehrlichia canis and anaplasmosis, both tick borne diseases, and heartworm, which is spread by mosquitoes and can be lethal if untreated.

“I would recommend pet owners ask their veterinarian about recommended monthly flea and tick prevention,” she said, adding a wonderful resource for obtaining additional information about ticks and other parasites is CAPC (Companion Animal Parasite Council.)

“It is a very good website with information for pets and people,” Ashley said.

Lynn DePrizio, a respected Borzoi breeder and exhibitor from Rhode Island, owns three dogs residing in her kennel that are treated for Lyme disease.

Piper, age 10 ½, was diagnosed at age 2.

“We are still dealing with the consequences,” DePrizio said, adding that another canine, Navar, age 6, was discovered to be suffering from Lyme Disease at age 1, and perhaps several months earlier.

Octavia, age 6 ½, was diagnosed last year.

“My veterinarian reports that Seekonk has a high rate of Lyme disease,” DePrizio said, adding that she has also had two acquaintances who have suffered from the debilitating disease.

“Lyme is not nice to dogs or humans,” she said, adding that the canine medication is costly and should be prescribed by a veterinarian.

DePrizio says that while all three dogs were able to compete in the show ring and earn their American Kennel Club titles, Piper‘s GI tract was destroyed as a result of the medication and the canine now eats a diet of white chicken, rice and special dog food.

“We have to be careful of what she eats,” DePrizio said, adding that all canines have maintained their weight.

“Lyme can flare up any time,” DePrizio adds, emphasizing that owners must keep their grass short and keep dogs out of the bushes to prevent ticks from jumping onto a dog.

“Lyme Disease doesn’t go away,” she said. “It just stays hidden.”