Ticked Off! Invasive Plants and Lyme Disease—A Surprising Connection

Of all the ways to protect ourselves against Lyme disease, planting “this” instead of “that” isn’t usually part of the conversation. And yet, knowing which plants attract disease-carrying ticks can make a difference. Japanese barberry, a non-native ornamental shrub that’s popular for its deer resistance, became established on New England’s post-agricultural lands in the early 1900s. It has invaded our forests, stifling native tree and wildflower regeneration and altering soil chemistry. Extensive research has revealed there is a link between Japanese barberry infestations and blacklegged (aka “deer”) ticks and the causal agent of Lyme disease with which they are infected.

New Canaan Vet: Deer Ticks ‘Are Out Now in Force’

With the frost out of the ground and more residents enjoying the outdoors with their dogs, a New Canaan veterinarian is urging pet owners to check their dogs for ticks. Dr. Daniel Hochman of Grove Street Veterinary said dog owners also should use anti-products (“There are topicals and orals”) and ensure the animals’ Lyme Disease shots are up-to-date. Asked to gauge tick activity right now, Hochman—owner of a 4-year-old goldendoodle, Trixie (see photo at right)—said: “They are out now in force.”

“It [prevalence of ticks] is really variable with where you live, in terms of your landscaping,” Hochman said. “People who have more tall grass with a lot of trees, their dogs are just covered in ticks.”

Hochman said the Lyme vaccine for dogs is “very effective.”

“I see a very low incidence of clinical Lyme Disease in my practice because most all of my clients are vaccinated for it, and use some type of a tick preventative,” he said. According to the Connecticut Department of Public Health, symptoms of Lyme in dogs include lethargy, arthritis, fever, fatigue and kidney damage.