Can you get ticks from pets?


Ever wonder if you can get ticks from pets? A study by Jones et al. found that not only can pets transport ticks into the home and onto humans, but the risk of a tick bite is significantly higher for both dog and cat owners.

Can you get ticks from pets? Yes, and according to a study by Jones et al. owning indoor-outdoor pets increases your risk of being bitten by a tick and potentially exposing yourself to various tick-borne diseases. [1]

Out of the 1,546 homes with pets, 88.1% used some form of tick control on their pets. Yet, 20% still found ticks on their pets, 31.4% reported ticks crawling on household members, and 19.2% found ticks attached to household members during the study period, writes Jones from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. 

Owning pet increases risk of tick bite

Overall, pet-owning households reportedly had a 1.83 times greater risk of finding ticks crawling on household members and a 1.49 times greater risk of having ticks attached to a member.

[bctt tweet=”Owning indoor-outdoor pets increases your chances of being bitten by a tick.” username=”DrDanielCameron”]

For households which found ticks on their pets, the risk of a human tick encounter was increased significantly, with a 2.69 times greater risk of a tick crawling on a household member and a 2.5 greater risk of a tick attachment.

READ MORE: Cats carry all types of ticks and tick-borne diseases

“We were surprised,” says Jones, “to find that the reported use of tick control on pets did not have a protective effect on tick encounters.”

In addition, certain property features increased the likelihood of human tick encounters. Homes with a vegetable garden, compost pile, log pile, bird feeder, stone walls and children’s play equipment were at a greater risk of “finding ticks both crawling and attached to household members,” the authors write.

The authors suggest several reasons why the risk of tick exposure is greater for pet owners:

  1. Pets may bring ticks onto the property and even into the home where humans can encounter them.
  2. Pet owners may engage in activities with their pets that take both themselves and their pets into tick habitat, increasing the risk of tick encounters for both the pet and the humans.
  3. Pet ownership is increasing in the United States, and many pet owners allow their pets to share their living space, including beds and furniture.

“We believe the greater risk of encountering ticks in pet-owning households reflects a true increase in risk of tick-borne disease in these households,” writes Jones.

Pet owners should be made aware of these risks and reminded to conduct tick checks regularly on pets and household members and to consult their veterinarian regarding effective tick control products, Jones told Reuters Health. 

UPDATED: June 18, 2021

  1. Jones EH, Hinckley AF, Hook SA, et al. Pet ownership increases human risk of encountering ticks. Zoonoses Public Health. 2017.

12 Replies to "Can you get ticks from pets?"

  • Eliza
    08/23/2023 (8:56 am)

    Thank you for providing some real numbers. We just got a kitten and, having grown up in California where we always kept them indoor/outdoor, I was considering doing the same now that I live in (tick-infested) Massachusetts. Cleaning the litter box is a chore and I think the quality of my cat’s life is much reduced by keeping him indoors, but this article has convinced me that letting him out is not worth the risk to my household.

  • Gopakumar
    05/29/2023 (4:06 pm)

    How can we decide whether we are having ticks or not?

    • Dr. Daniel Cameron
      05/29/2023 (4:29 pm)

      A regular tick bite will help. Unfortunately ticks can bite be scratched off or fall of without someone noticing it.

  • Cj
    06/19/2021 (3:53 am)

    I don’t know what to think. The areas where households were studied needed to have a lot of risk factors (wooded 2+ acre lots, establish high risk towns, log piles etc). Could it be that pets bring in ticks when highly exposed to them and that makes the risk a function of the tick population out of doors? In other words, move to an area where the environmental conditions are not the same and perhaps now the same dog does not bring the same threat of transmission. I always have known that dogs can bring in ticks…even if treated. It’s a given they easily latch onto things and drop off. So choosing a type of dog with this in mind might help. Also, anyone who lives in a tick infested area should make special efforts to rid their yards of all the places that tend to harbor tick. And while trees are nice, pick and chose them and open up the rest of a yard to sunshine as an added deterrent to ticks. I went through the original article and I don’t see a lot about what they homeowners did preventatively besides treating their pets. I also noticed that this was done by survey and phone interviews. That said, though, it’s interesting but I would like to see it repeated.

  • Jennifer
    05/04/2018 (8:43 pm)

    Since 1988 our family has had 3 dogs who lived to be 13-15 years old. Now, since I have been diagnosed with Lyme Disease, my husband says we will never have another dog. It makes me very sad but, after reading this I’m feeling very nervous too. 🙁

    • Danielle
      06/28/2018 (1:48 pm)

      Jennifer, since when does your husband have the right to make decisions like this one for you? YOU are responsible for your own medical care, and the decision about whether or not to get another dog is YOURS, not HIS. And I should point out that you can get Lyme disease by simply taking a walk around the block near your house. You don’t even have to HAVE a dog with you to get bitten by a tick, because they live in trees and on plants. You can also get bitten by sitting on a chair in your own yard. So your husband is being unreasonable and CRUEL to you by telling you that you’ll never have another dog. It’s NOT THE DOG’S FAULT that you got bitten.

      • J P Dieter
        06/09/2021 (7:29 am)

        Danielle, while yes, you are absolutely correct in that we each are ultimately responsible for our own choices this is something that probably should be decided in discussion…jointly…with a partner. Yes while our health is our own, if someone develops a debilitating disease in the household it impacts the entire household, e.g. the financial status due to potential loss of income of the ill partner, additional medical expenses, the necessity at times for the healthy person to tend to the physical, personal care needs of the ill person. Also if someone else in the house already has a debilitating disorder or requires special care and attention perhaps it’s essential for everyone else to be hyper attentive to their own good health as the remaining healthy members are essential to the care of the affected chronically ill or Impaired member. So our health is not only personal but communal and if one person has high levels of concern in this area it’s probably most helpful to all involved to hash it out among themselves versus taking resolute stands regarding animal ownership.
        Me, I’d rather take the risks, be vigilant and enjoy my dog’s companionship, but each family needs to think about the responsibilities and potential consequences for their own household.

  • Stephanie Craft
    08/28/2017 (9:53 am)

    Thanks for such an informative article. It is true that tick bites are more probable if one spends time with their pets or other animals, but it can be prevented using a repellent that contains a minimum of 20% of DEET or picaridin, whenever you or your children are around the pet. Regular pest control inspections and treatments are also a must for homes with pets.

    • Dr. Daniel Cameron
      08/28/2017 (12:52 pm)

      The study showed that the risk remained higher even in households using recommended precautions.

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