5 Need-to-Know Facts About Ticks and Lyme Disease for Dogs
By: Dr. Clayton Greenway, B.Sc., DVM | Aug 23, 2016
Ticks carry Lyme disease and just like humans, dogs are also at risk for contracting this transmissible disease. It’s important to be informed when it comes to prevention, testing, and how to properly remove a tick to keep your dog safe. Here we highlight 5 need-to-know facts about ticks and Lyme disease for dogs.
1. Ticks can carry Lyme disease, but an embedded tick has to be in the skin for 24 hours to transmit it.
You can prevent the contraction of Lyme disease by looking your dog over every night to remove any ticks picked up during the day. Deer ticks are the only ticks that carry Lyme disease and in Ontario, only 10% of the ticks that bite your dog will be deer ticks. Of those ticks, only 10% will carry Lyme disease. This means that you have a 1 in 100 chance of encountering a tick carrying Lyme disease.
2. If you think your dog has encountered a tick, it must be tested for Lyme disease.
Lyme disease is something that your dog will carry for its life because it is difficult to impossible to get rid of. It lays dormant and then creates symptoms unexpectedly at random times, often months or years apart. The symptoms are often non-specific and can be simply lethargy, fever, and enlarged lymph nodes. Joint pain and skin rashes can occur as well. In some cases, it can be damaging to the kidneys.
For this reason, it is important to test for Lyme. I recommend that if you have ever seen a tick on your dog, you should perform a 4Dx test every year instead of a Heartworm test. The 4Dx test is only $5 more expensive at our clinic and looks for both Lyme disease and Heartworm, as well as other tick-borne illnesses.
3. If your dog has ever had a tick, remember to tell your vet.
The symptoms of Lyme disease can be so non-specific, that veterinarians will often not look for it as the first step in the diagnosis. A dog presenting with fever, lethargy and enlarged lymph nodes, could be caused by so many diseases that a veterinarian may perform blood work, radiographs, and in-hospital treatments that can be extremely expensive before doing a simple test for Lyme disease. If a quick Lyme test is performed and comes back positive, in most cases, it’s a simple matter of sending your dog home with antibiotics. I’ll admit that if you see a dog in the winter with these symptoms, it can be difficult to bring Lyme disease to mind, so try to remember to bring up ticks in your answer to history questions.
4. It’s important to remove ticks properly: how to remove a tick from a dog.
Ticks embed their head in the skin of your dog and if you simply pull them off, the head will remain in the skin and cause a reaction. You can drop by any veterinary clinic and ask for a tick remover. These are small plastic hooks that remove ticks extremely easily with the head intact. I would hope that the clinic you visit would have them and give them to you for free.
In the video tutorial below, Dr. Clayton Greenway shows how to remove a tick from a dog.
5. Prevent tick exposure every season, not just during the summer months.
This can most reliably be achieved with preventive medication. There are many to choose from so speak to your veterinarian about which one might be right for you. Keep in mind that the medications work differently to kill ticks. It’s important to pay attention to the ‘kill time’ which is how long the medication takes to kill a tick. Some will kill it when it first touches your pet’s hair while other require the tick to bite your dog and may take hours before it consumes enough of the medication to die. To prevent Lyme transmission, it’s best to use a product that kills the tick within a 24-hour period. All medications have the potential of causing side effects. If you don’t like the idea of using them for your pet, you could take other measures to prevent exposure to ticks. This would include using protective clothing you can find online, and simply avoiding known tick-infested areas.
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