Ticks can cause many deadly diseases and within the first 24 hours of being on your dog these diseases can be transmitted. There is simply no way to tell if a tick is carrying a disease but, if they are, it only takes one bite to infect your dog. Some ticks are known to carry more than one disease, which can lead to multiple infections at the same time. Be sure to check your dog for ticks and remove ticks from your dog as soon as possible.
Common among all vector-borne diseases, symptoms can be vague and difficult to recognize. You may not know your dog is suffering from a debilitating tick disease until it’s too late. Humans and other non-canine family members can also become infected with the same tick-borne diseases your dog can get.
If you live in an area with ticks you should check yourself, your family and other pets in the house routinely.
1. Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is one of the most common tick-borne diseases in the world. Lyme disease has been found throughout the United States, Canada and Europe, but infections are most frequently diagnosed in the northeastern, mid-Atlantic, north-central states and California.
Lyme disease is caused by a bacterial spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi. Borrelia is carried by a slow feeding, hard-shelled deer tick also called the (black-legged tick) and the (Western black-legged tick).
Lyme disease is essentially an infection of the dog’s tissues that often leads to lameness. In general, symptoms in dogs are difficult to detect and may not appear until several months after infection. Symptoms may also come and go and can mimic other health conditions.
Experimentally, young dogs appear to be more susceptible to Lyme disease than adult dogs.
A dog infected with Lyme disease may show few if any signs. When signs of illness begin you should look for any of the following:
- Spontaneous and shifting leg lameness that lasts 3–4 days
- Occasional fever, difficult breathing, loss of appetite and depression
- Stiff walk with an arched back
- Fatigue, reluctance to move and sensitive to touch
- Inflammation of the joints
- Swollen lymph nodes near the area of bite
- In serious cases, complications may include damage to the kidney and rarely heart or nervous system disorders.
Kidney disease appears to be more prevalent in Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, and Bernese Mountain dogs. If left untreated kidney disease may lead to total kidney failure which can exhibit such signs as vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, weight loss, increased urination and thirst, fluid buildup in the abdomen, under the skin and legs.
A thorough history of your dog’s health, symptoms, and possible exposure will provide your veterinarian with information needed to make a diagnosis. A complete blood profile will be needed to look for the presence of bacteria, parasites, and fungi in the bloodstream. Fluid from any affected joints may also be drawn for analysis.
If the bite site is visual it should be inspected to see if any part of the tick still remains or a secondary infection exists.
Treatment for Lyme disease is very straightforward and consists of using either a tetracycline or penicillin-based antibiotic. The two most commonly used are oral doxycycline or amoxicillin. A recent study showed that both antibiotics worked equally well. The antibiotics must be given a minimum of 14 days, but 30 days is recommended. However, some preliminary studies show that some animals may not even clear the organism after 30 days and will relapse once the antibiotic is discontinued. In these cases, the animal may have to be on the antibiotic for much longer. It appears that many animals may never completely rid themselves of B. burgdorferi despite antibiotic treatment. These animals may never show any further signs of the disease. Despite the fact that some animals may develop chronic infections, the vast majority of infected dogs respond rapidly and satisfactorily to doxycycline treatment. In some animals with severe arthritis, pain relievers may also be used in addition to antibiotics. The use of steroids in this disease is definitely contraindicated.
Prevention of Lyme disease involves the use of vaccination and tick control programs. Dogs that were infected once with B. burgdorferi can become reinfected, so they too need protection.
There are whole-cell killed vaccines on the market including Lymevax® by Fort Dodge and Galaxy® Lyme by Schering-Plough. Recombinant vaccines, such as Recombitek® Lyme by Merial and ProLyme® and ContinuumTM Lyme by Intervet, are also available.
Some veterinarians have criticized the ineffectiveness of the Lyme vaccines and do not recommend their use. Although many dogs have been vaccinated and treated for Lyme disease, some vaccinated animals contract the disease, but it appears that vaccinated animals are less likely to contract the disease than unvaccinated animals. Vaccinations can be started after 12 weeks of age and it is recommended that two doses be given three weeks apart, and then boosted yearly after that.
Because of the inherent problems of over-vaccination, it is recommended that only dogs that are exposed to ticks in areas where Lyme disease is a problem be vaccinated.
Canine Ehrlichiosis comes in multiple forms that are often specific to different U.S. regions. Ehrlichia canis is an infection of white blood cells that can eventually affect bone marrow function, including the production of blood cells. Most Ehrlichia infections are acquired through tick bites. Infection is also possible via blood transfusions. Ehrlichiosis has also been called tropical canine pancytopenia (and several other names).
Ehrlichia canis is transmitted by the brown dog tick.
Ehrlichia ewingii and Ehrlichia chaffeensis are transmitted by the lone star tick. Ehrlichia ewingii and Ehrlichia chaffeensis are considered to be a zoonotic disease, which means they can infect people as well as pets. These diseases are particularly dangerous for young children, older adults and those with compromised immune systems.
Ehrlichiosis occurs worldwide in areas where the ticks that carry the disease are common. While any dog can be infected, some breeds, most notably German shepherds, are prone to more serious chronic infections.
Retired racing greyhounds from areas where Ehrlichiosis is common may suffer from chronic, undetected infections and should be checked for Ehrlichiosis and other tick-borne diseases when adopted.
The symptoms and severity of illness seen with Ehrlichiosis depend on the species of Ehrlichia involved and the immune response of the dog. Generally, Ehrlichia canis appears to produce the most severe illness, and infections tend to progress through various stages.
The acute phase occurs within the first few weeks of being infected and is rarely fatal. Recovery can occur, or the dog can enter a “subclinical phase” which can last for years, where there are no symptoms. Some dogs, but not all, eventually progress to the chronic phase, where very severe illness can develop. Signs of other organ involvement can appear in the chronic form, especially kidney disease. However, in practice, it is difficult to distinguish these phases.
Clinical signs include:
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Abnormal bleeding (nosebleeds, bleeding under skin)
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Enlarged spleen
- Pain and stiffness (due to arthritis and muscle pain)
- Discharge from the eyes and/or nose
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Inflammation of the eye
- Neurological symptoms (incoordination, depression, paralysis)
It can be difficult to confirm a diagnosis of Ehrlichiosis. Blood tests typically show a decreased number of platelets (thrombocytopenia) and sometimes decreased numbers of red blood cells (anemia) and/or white blood cells.
Changes in the protein levels in the blood may also occur. Blood smears can be examined for the presence of the Ehrlichia organisms. If they are present, the diagnosis can be confirmed, but they may not always show up on a smear. Blood can also be tested for antibodies to Ehrlichia, though this can sometimes produce incorrect results. Specialized testing can check for genetic material from Ehrlichia, and while this is the most sensitive test, it is not widely available and has some limitations as well. Generally, a combination of lab tests along with clinical signs and history are used to make a diagnosis.
The diagnosis is further complicated by the fact that dogs infected with Ehrlichia may also be infected with other diseases carried by ticks, such as Babesiosis, Lyme disease, or Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Infection with bacteria called Bartonella has also been found in conjunction with Ehrlichiosis and other tick-borne diseases. The presence of these other diseases can make symptoms more severe and the diagnosis more complicated.
Ehrlichiosis responds well to treatment with the antibiotic doxycycline. Improvement in symptoms is usually very quick, but several weeks of treatment is usually needed to ensure a full recovery.
In severe cases where blood cell counts are very low, blood transfusions may be needed. Reinfection is possible as immunity to Ehrlichia bacteria is not long lasting.
Preventing exposure to the ticks that carry Ehrlichia is the best means of preventing Ehrlichiosis. Check your dog daily for ticks and remove them as soon as possible (it is believed that ticks must feed for at least 24-48 hours to spread Ehrlichia). This is especially important in peak tick season or if your dog spends time in the woods or tall grass.
Products that prevent ticks such as monthly parasite preventatives (Frontline®, Revolution®) or tick collars (Preventic®) can be used. Be sure to follow your veterinarian’s advice when using these products. Keep grass and brush trimmed in your yard, and in areas where ticks are a serious problem, you may also consider treating the yard and kennel area for ticks.
In the event that your dog begins to experience any of the symptoms see your veterinarian immediately.
3. Rocky Mountain spotted fever
Rocky Mountain spotted fever is one of the most commonly known tick-borne diseases to affect dogs and humans. It belongs to a class of diseases known as Rickettsia; rod-shaped microorganisms that resemble bacteria, but which behaves more like a virus, reproducing only inside of a living cell.
Rickettsia rickettsii – the organism responsible for Rocky Mountain spotted fever lives parasitically in ticks and is transmitted by bite to vertebrate hosts. Most infections occur in the months from March through October.
Rocky Mountain spotted fever is transmitted by the American dog tick and the Lone Star tick. Rocky Mountain spotted fever appears suddenly with severe illness lasting about two weeks. If not treated early enough, Rocky Mountain spotted fever can result in death.
Despite the geographic implications of its name, Rocky Mountain spotted fever can be found throughout the United States and Canada. Areas with the highest concentrations are the eight Rocky Mountain States, California and the Southeast.
While people infected with Rocky Mountain spotted fever are likely to develop a visible rash, dogs do not. Common symptoms of canine Rocky Mountain spotted fever include:
- Arthritis-like stiffness when walking
- Neurological abnormalities
Certain breeds are more likely to develop a severe reaction to the R. rickettsii organism than others; these include purebred dogs and German shepherds. The signs and symptoms of Rocky Mountain spotted fever vary according to the type of disease the dog has. Most dogs will develop a fever within five days of contracting Rickettsia rickettsii. Other symptoms include:
- Blood in the urine
- Irregular heart beat (arrhythmia)
- Discolored spots along the skin, often bruised or purplish in color
- Inability to walk normally, loss of coordination (ataxia)
- Swelling or edema (fluid retention) in the limbs
- Bleeding that occurs suddenly, most often from the nose, or in the stools
- Difficulty with blood clotting, which can lead to shock or death
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Inflammation, hemorrhage, or conjunctivitis in the mucosal membranes, most commonly in the eyes
You will need to provide a thorough history of your pet’s health, including a background history of symptoms, recent activities, and possible incidents that might have precipitated this condition.
Your veterinarian will make the diagnosis based on blood tests and skin biopsies from the affected areas, along with the symptoms that are presented. A heightened antibody count will show that an infection is present. Special stains can be used in a laboratory setting to confirm a diagnosis.
Rocky Mountain spotted fever is a serious ailment that may result in fatality if your dog is not cared for properly. Treatment usually involves admitting your pet to an in-patient health facility where a health care team can monitor your dog until it shows signs of improvement. Your pet will be given antibiotics, the type will be based on your pet’s age, and proper hydration and fluid balancing will be checked.
If your dog is found to have low red-blood cell counts, a condition known as anemia, or if there is a threat of developing a condition known as thrombocytopenia, where the platelets or other substances in the blood become too low, a blood transfusion may be necessary to prevent these conditions from becoming life threatening.
Your veterinarian will also monitor the amount of fluid in the dog’s brain to prevent edema, or excessive swelling of tissues in the brain, body, and lungs.
Along with the prescribed antibiotics, your dog may also require corticosteroid anti-inflammatory medications. Caution should be taken whenever steroid use is prescribed.
If you know your dog will be in an area that is tick infested, you will want to screen your pet for ticks and take precautions to prevent your pet from overexposure to ticks. Tick repellents and tick collars can be used, but checking your dog’s skin and hair for the presence of ticks is the most accurate way of preventing infection. Infection typically occurs after five hours.
You will need to remove any ticks you find on your pet, taking extra care to remove the mouth part of the tick. Your veterinarian may recommend the use of dips and sprays to help prevent further tick infestation. The type of repellent you use will be based on your dog’s age and health status.
The prognosis for pets is usually good, provided you seek prompt and early care and treatment. If you seek help within the first few hours of infection, your pet will likely survive with no long-term consequences. If you do not take prompt action it is likely that your pet may suffer long-term consequences or even death. This could occur within days or even hours. Without proper treatment, the effects on the central nervous system can be devastating.
Canine Hepatozoonosis infection comes in two forms. Hepatozoon americanum, a protozoan (one-celled organism) is transmitted by the Gulf Coast tick, and Hepatozoon canis, which is transmitted by the Brown dog tick. Unlike other vector-borne diseases that are transmitted by tick bite; both forms of canine Hepatozoonosis are transmitted only when a dog ingests an infected tick.
The Hepatozoon organism reproduces within an infected tick but does not migrate to the salivary glands of the tick. This is why transmission cannot occur by tick bite but only by ingesting the whole tick.
When an infected tick is eaten by a dog, H. canis is freed and migrates through the dog’s intestine to the liver, spleen, lymph nodes, heart, and muscles. Inside the cells of these organs, the parasite reproduces by dividing and eventually ruptures the cell. The parasite then moves into different cells to continue the process of maturing and rupturing cells. The damage caused by the rupturing of these cells causes severe muscle pain. Eventually, the more mature forms enter particular white blood cells.
Cases of canine Hepatozoonosis have been reported in the eastern and middle-southern regions of the United States especially Texas. This organism also affects coyotes and foxes.
A dog infected with Hepatozoon canis may show few if any signs. Some signs to look for are:
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
Hepatozoon canis infections do not cause serious illness unless a concurrent disease such as Ehrlichiosis or Babesiosis is present or the dog has a suppressed immune system.
Hepatozoon americanum affects muscle cells, resulting in a debilitating and potentially fatal condition. A dog infected with Hepatozoon americanum will typically show severe symptoms that occur intermittently. These can include any of the following:
- Depression, loss of appetite
- Generalized muscle pain
- Hyperesthesia (heightened sensitivity of the skin and musculature) over the back and side
- Loss of muscle mass with chronic weight loss
- Lameness or inability to rise
- Proliferation of the outer layer (periosteum) of bones, causing pain
- Discharge from the eyes or nose
- Anemia and bloody diarrhea
- Kidney failure
A definitive diagnosis is made by finding the Hepatozoon organisms in white blood cells (neutrophils) on a blood smear. Also, finding the parasite in a muscle biopsy is a very reliable method of diagnosing this disease.
In addition, a routine blood test consisting of a complete blood cell count and blood chemistry profile is typically performed to check for additional organ dysfunction or abnormalities.
In some severely affected dogs, the point at which the muscles attach to the bones may become inflamed. Radiographs (X-rays) to examine the bones of the pelvis, vertebrae, and legs may be recommended as well.
There is no effective treatment or vaccine for this disease. Treatment is primarily supportive to relieve pain and may include glucocorticoids or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications. Initial combination therapy with imidocarb and trimethoprim/sulfa, clindamycin and pyrimethamine may be followed by long-term therapy with decoquinate.
Hepatozoonosis in dogs can be prevented by controlling ticks and tick bites. It may be possible to remove an infectious tick before it has had a chance to pass the disease into the dog’s blood. Always check your dog after returning from an outing, and remove ticks carefully, thoroughly, and immediately.
Babesia (a single celled protozoon) is transmitted by the brown dog tickhttp://www.dogsandticks.com/ticks/brown_dog.php. In the case of one Babesia species (Babesia gibsoni), transmission from dog to dog can occur if an infected dog with oral lesions bites another. Infections are also possible through blood transfusions and recent studies show that Babesia may be transmitted transplacentally (to unborn puppies in the uterus). Thus, dogs housed in kennel settings with poor tick control are at risk. Because it is spread by ticks, Babesia is most common in warmer weather when ticks are most numerous.
Babesiosis affects red blood cells, and as a dog’s immune system tries to eliminate the infected blood cells, anemia, pallor and general weakness may result.
Babesia species are found worldwide, although in North America, most canine cases of Babesiosis occur in the Southern US. Pockets of the disease also exist in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
While any dog can be infected, young dogs tend to suffer more serious illness. Greyhounds with Babesia canis, pit bull terriers, and American Staffordshire terriers with Babesia gibsoni seem to be most susceptible to infection.
Babesiosis can affect people as well as pets.
Babesia infections have a wide range of severity: they can be very mild (dogs may not even show symptoms) or very severe including sudden collapse with systemic shock, to a hemolytic crisis that can be fatal. In severe cases, multiple organ systems may also be affected such as the lungs, gastrointestinal tract, kidneys, and the nervous system.
The severity depends mainly on the species of Babesia involved but also on the immune system of the dog. Babesia species in the US generally produce milder disease compared to some of the species found elsewhere. The course of the disease may be cyclical, with periods of symptoms punctuated by times where symptoms are absent.
- Less severe signs include:
- Lack of activity/lethargy
- Generalized weakness
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
Dogs that typically present with the acute, severe form of Babesiosis will show the following signs:
- Pale mucous membranes (gums and tongue)
- Jaundiced (yellow tinge to eyes, gums and skin)
- Swollen lymph nodes
- An enlarged spleen
- Thrombocytopenia (low platelet count)
- Hypoalbuminemia (low blood protein)
- Bilirubinuria (red to orange urine)
It can be difficult to confirm a diagnosis of Babesiosis. Blood tests may show a decrease in the number of red blood cells and platelets, but this is not specific to Babesia. Blood smears can be examined for the presence of the Babesia organisms. If they are present, the diagnosis can be confirmed, but they may not always show up on a smear (taking blood from a cut on the ear tip or from a toenail can improve the odds of finding the parasites).
In essence blood smear examination for Babesia is not reliable and better diagnostic tools are now available. FA (fluorescent antibody) staining of the organism and ELISA (enzyme linked immunosorbent assay) tests are available for Babesia canis. A polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test is also available.
Blood can also be tested for antibodies to Babesia, though this can sometimes produce misleading results. A positive test result is dependent on an antibody response by the infected dog, which may take up to ten days to develop. Generally, a combination of lab tests along with clinical signs and history are used to make a diagnosis.
The diagnosis is further complicated by the fact that dogs infected with Babesia may also be infected with other diseases carried by ticks, such as Ehrlichia, Lyme disease, or Rocky Mountain spotted fever
A variety of drugs have been used to treat Babesia, with variable success. The FDA approved treatment is Imidocarb dipropionate in the US. Other treatments include atovaquone and azithromycin which may help eliminate the sub-clinical carrier states. These drugs are promising however, quite expensive. Diminazine aceturate is not available in the US but is used elsewhere.
Treatment relieves the symptoms of Babesiosis, but it seems that in many cases, it does not fully clear the parasite from the body. Dogs may remain infected at a low level, and Babesia can flare up again in times of stress or reduced immune function. Dogs that have been diagnosed with Babesia should not be bred or used as blood donors (to prevent spreading the disease).
The prognosis for a dog with Babesiosis is guarded.
Preventing exposure to the ticks that carry Babesia is the best means of preventing Babesiosis. Check your dog daily for ticks and remove them as soon as possible especially in tick-infested areas. Ticks must feed for at least 24-48 hours to spread Babesia.
Products that prevent ticks such as monthly parasite preventatives are available from your veterinarian. A vaccine is available in Europe, but is only effective against particular strains of Babesia and is not 100 percent effective.
Canine Anaplasmosis comes in two forms. Anaplasma phagocytophilum is an infection of the white blood cells that’s transmitted by the deer tick. This is the same tick that transmits Lyme disease, which increases the risk of co-infection with Anaplasmosis. Anaplasma phagocytophilum is also a zoonotic disease, which means it can infect people as well as pets.
The other form, Anaplasma platys, is an infection of the blood platelets that can lead to bleeding disorders and is transmitted by the Brown dog tick. Although these two forms of Anaplasmosis present with different signs, both pose a threat to your dog’s health.
Ticks acquire the bacteria that cause the disease from feeding on an infected host animal, such as a rodent or a deer. Then, they pass the bacteria to your four-legged friend by biting him and ingesting his blood.
Both forms of canine Anaplasmosis are found throughout the United States and Canada, wherever there are deer or brown dog ticks. Canine Anaplasmosis sometimes referred to as “dog fever” or “dog tick fever,” is most prevalently found in the northeastern, mid-Atlantic and north-central states, as well as California. A. platys, specifically, is more common in Gulf Coast and southwestern states.
Symptoms – Anaplasma phagocytophilum
Similar to other vector-borne diseases, symptoms are often vague and nonspecific. Most infected dogs will have symptoms for 1 to 7 days. Common signs can include any of the following:
- Loss of appetite
- Fever, lethargy
- Lameness, joint pain, reluctance to move
- Occasional coughing, difficult breathing
- Rare neck pain or neurologic signs in some cases
Symptoms – Anaplasma platys
Symptoms of Anaplasma platys are often very difficult for pet owners to detect or identify as infection. Common signs can include any of the following:
- Bruising on the gums and belly
- Spontaneous nosebleeds
Because the two forms of Anaplasmosis present with different signs it can be difficult to diagnose based on signs alone. Upon examination, your veterinarian may recommend the following tests:
- An enzyme-linked immunosorbant assay (ELISA) test
- An indirect fluorescent antibody (IFA) test
- A polymerase chain reaction PCR test may also help
- Chemistry tests to evaluate kidney, liver and pancreatic function
- A complete blood count to rule out blood-related conditions
- A urinalysis to rule out infection and evaluate kidney function
- Electrolyte tests to check imbalances or dehydration
Note: the organism can sometimes be seen through a microscope during peak phases of the infection.
If your dog has been infected with Anaplasmosis, your veterinarian will most likely prescribe an antibiotic, such as doxycycline or tetracycline. Most treatment regimens call for 30 days of antibiotics. The good news is that, in most cases, symptoms begin to resolve within 1–4 days and the prognosis for clinical recovery is excellent. Your veterinarian may recommend repeating blood tests after your pet has been on medication for a period of time, to make sure the antibiotic treatment has been effective. In more severe cases, some dogs require other medications or hospitalization.
Protecting your best friend from ticks is the most important step in prevention. Because the signs of tick-borne diseases, like Anaplasmosis, are so varied, it is vital that you have your pet screened routinely for any vector-borne illness. Screening tests are very fast and helpful because if your dog is infected, you can start administering medication as soon as possible.
The good news is there are several ways to protect your pet and very effective tick-prevention products and medications are available both over the counter and from your veterinarian.
Note: Dogs in endemic Anaplasmosis areas often are exposed to A. phagocytophilum and as a result have a positive antibody titer when tested. A study determined that as high as 40% of the dogs in these areas are seropositive. However, most do not have clinical evidence of the disease but could be clinical carriers of the disease. Treating clinically healthy, seropositive dogs is of questionable benefit and not generally recommended at this time.
Clinically infected carrier dogs could be adversely affected by medications that compromise the immune system such as steroids or by an illness that diminishes the immune system. Under these circumstances, it is possible for the dog to come down with active Anaplasmosis disease.
Anaplasmosis Phagocytophilum is a zoonotic pathogen. There is a potential that a dog could infect a human, however, no evidence of this ever occurring has been documented. If a dog has been diagnosed with Anaplasmosis this means that infected ticks are in the environment that could transmit the disease to humans. In this case, strict tick control measures should be taken.
Keeping ticks off your dog
Using an over the counter spot-on medication that you purchase from your veterinarian, pet store, or online can be a very effective method for controlling both ticks and fleas. These medications are effective at keeping parasites at bay for up to a month.
Pills that are given once a month are readily available for dogs. These medications can work to kill both ticks and immature fleas and will disrupt the life cycle of fleas. They are easy to give and you won’t have to be concerned about small children and cats coming into contact with dogs immediately after application, as you might with spot-on treatments.
Bathing your dog with a shampoo that contains medicated ingredients will generally kill ticks on contact. This can be an inexpensive method of protecting your dog during the peak tick season. You will need to repeat the process more often, about every two weeks, as the effective ingredients won’t last as long as a spot-on or oral medication.
A dip is a concentrated chemical that needs to be diluted in water and applied to the animal’s fur with a sponge or poured over the back. This treatment is not meant to be rinsed off after application. The chemicals used in dips can be very strong, so be sure to read the labels carefully before use. You should not use a dip for very young animals (under four months) or for pregnant or nursing pets. Ask your veterinarian for advice before treating puppies, or pregnant or nursing pets.
Collars that repel ticks are an additional preventive you can use, though they are mainly only useful for protecting the neck and head from ticks. The tick collar needs to make contact with your dog’s skin in order to transfer the chemicals onto the dog’s fur and skin. When putting this type of collar on your dog, you will need to make sure there is just enough room to fit two fingers under the collar when it’s around the dog’s neck. Cut off any excess length of collar to prevent your dog from chewing on it. Watch for signs of discomfort (excessive scratching) in case an allergic reaction to the collar occurs. Make sure you read the labels carefully when choosing a collar.
Removing ticks from your dog
If your dog spends time outside in areas where ticks like to hang out, a tick check should be part of your daily routine.
Even the best repellents may not prevent these parasites from latching onto your pooch. And since it can take 24 to 48 hours for an attached tick to transmit an infection to its host, it’s important to promptly and properly remove these parasites.
Inspecting you dog
Run your fingers slowly over your dog’s entire body. If you feel a bump or swollen area, check to see if a tick has burrowed there. Don’t limit your search to your dog’s torso: check between his toes, under his armpits, the insides of his ears, and around his face and chin.
Don’t limit tick checks to your canine family members. Dogs can’t directly transmit tick-borne illnesses to people, but ticks can move from host to host. A tick may enter your home on your dog’s back and move on to another pet or human, or a tick could hitch a ride on you and then move on to one of your pets. A good tick prevention strategy includes checking all family members for these parasites, especially after outdoor activities in wooded, leafy, or grassy areas.
Ticks can be black, brown, or tan, and they have eight legs. Ticks are arachnids and related to spiders, not insects. They can also be tiny – some tick species are only as large as the head of a pin – so look carefully.
In some areas of the United States where there is no real winter, ticks are active all year, not just in the summer months. Even in areas where there has been a killing frost with the approach of winter, ticks can become active again if the weather turns warm for more than a day or two.
Safe tick removal
Step 1: Use the following items
- Pair of gloves
- Clean pair of tweezers or a commercial tick remover
- Isopropyl alcohol
Step 2: Remove the tick
Wear gloves while removing the tick to avoid contact with your skin (ticks can transmit diseases to people, too).
If you’re using tweezers:
- Grasp the tick as close to your dog’s skin as possible, but be gentle! Try not to pinch your dog’s skin.
- Pull outward in a straight, steady motion, making sure that you’ve removed the entire tick, since anything left behind could lead to an infection.
If you’re using a tick remover:
- Gently press the remover against your dog’s skin near the tick.
- Slide the notch of the remover under the tick.
- Continue sliding the remover until the tick is caught in the small end of the notch and is pulled free. (The tick will remain in the bowl of the remover.)
Step 3: Store the evidence
Drop the tick into a small container that contains isopropyl alcohol (the alcohol will quickly kill the tick), and mark the date on the container. If your dog begins displaying symptoms of a tick-borne illness, your veterinarian may want to identify or test the tick.
Step 4: Clean Up
Clean your dog’s skin with antiseptic and make sure to clean your tweezers or tick remover with isopropyl alcohol. Wash your hands, too! Then give your pup a treat for being a trooper in the fight against ticks.
Step 5: Follow up
Keep an eye on the area where the tick was to see if an infection surfaces. If the skin remains irritated or infected, make an appointment with your veterinarian.
Watch your dog for symptoms of tick-borne diseases. Some symptoms include arthritis or lameness that lasts for three to four days, reluctance to move, swollen joints, fever, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, loss of appetite, and neurological problems.
This material is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease or condition. All specific treatment decisions must be made by you and your local, attending veterinarian.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]