MADISON, Wis. -

The unofficial start to summer means the official return of some of our area's peskiest pests.

And this year's tick season is expected to be particularly bad, with insect experts saying Lyme disease is now more of a threat than ever.

Some of our four-legged friends might play a key role in the disease’s prevalence this summer.

We've all heard that a dog is a man's best friend, but after roaming through tall grass and playing with other pups, they can be a tick's best friend too.

That’s something dog owner Tim Casucci knows all too well.

"Trying to find a tick on her, you know, it's so thick and long," says Casucci while searching his dogs Pepper and Mystic after a day of playing outside.

But Casucci is also worried about the insects latching on to his daughter Holly.

"Yeah, you need to play in the grass and run and play, and she's doing cartwheels all of the time, so her head's right down there, you know, and that's all it takes," said Casucci.

"Just a couple of days ago, Holly had a little spot here, and I said, 'Hey honey, come here, let me see what that is.' And it ended up, I picked a little wood tick out of there," continued Casucci.

Experts say summer is the worst time for any human or animal to pick up ticks.

And even if the population is down due to drought, there's even more illness linked to ticks.

"If they're down by 50 percent, that sounds like we're gaining on them, but because of the high incidence with carrying Lyme disease, like I said, you still have to keep your guard up," said Phil Pellitteri, UW-Madison insect expert.

Tim Casucci is one who definitely has his guard up.

"Once you find one, you're like, 'What's that? Is that a tick?' Every little thing feels like a tick," said Casucci.

Casucci makes sure Mystic and Pepper get their tick medication.

But no matter what the threat, he won't stop bringing the whole crew to the park.

"Yeah, they're nasty little critters. Who knows why they're here, but they're around, so like I said, you just can't let them dictate the fun you might have," said Casucci.

Pellitteri claims that clothing sprays sold in sporting goods stores are very effective in keeping ticks off.

He recommends spraying down your garments before heading out into wooded areas.

He also adds that tucking long pants into socks is a good way to keep the critters off your skin.