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What every dog owner needs to know about ticks

Most pet owners know plenty about fleas and the horrors of battling an infestation caused by a missed dose of preventative medication. Your pup can be exposed to a wide range of tick-borne illnesses, which vary depending on your location. Keep your furry pal safe from these blood-sucking parasites by learning about the dangers, and what you should do if you find one on your dog.

Which tick-borne diseases commonly affect dogs?

When people think of ticks, they usually think of Lyme disease, but several other diseases commonly affect dogs bitten by ticks. A tick that feeds on your pup often has to remain attached for 24 to 48 hours to transmit a disease-causing organism into your pet’s bloodstream. But, some diseases can be passed along only a few hours after a tick has attached. If you and your pooch venture into tick territory, educate yourself about these common diseases:

  • Lyme disease — This tick-borne illness is transmitted only by the black-legged tick, (or deer tick.) Rare in southern United States, Lyme disease is one of the most common tick-borne diseases in the Midwest, Northeast, and mid-Atlantic. Lyme disease can affect the kidneys and cause a critical, life-threatening condition that may lead to kidney failure and death. More typically it causes painful joints, fever and fatigue.

  • Ehrlichiosis — Several organisms in the Ehrlichia family lead to disease in dogs and people, but the main one that affects dogs is Ehrlichia canis. This bacterium is typically transmitted by the brown dog tick and can create multi-systemic complications in dogs. Most ehrlichiosis cases occur in the Southwest and Gulf Coast regions of the United States.

  • Anaplasmosis — The two forms of anaplasmosis that infect dogs are transmitted by the black-legged tick and the brown dog tick across large portions of the country—the northeastern states, the Gulf states, California, the upper Midwest, the southwestern states, and the mid-Atlantic regions. Dogs with anaplasmosis usually show minimal infection signs and are often infected with other tick-borne diseases at the same time.

  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever — Transmitted by the brown dog tick and the American dog tick, this illness usually runs its course in two weeks, and tends to be seen across the southeast and south-central United States.

  • Babesiosis — This tick-borne disease is protozoal rather than caused by a bacterium. Signs can vary from a mild illness that passes quickly to a severe disease that rapidly results in death.

This list may seem extensive, but many other tick-borne illnesses can infect your pup. Year-round prevention and careful combing after an adventure outdoors are the best ways to keep your furry pal safe.

What are tick-borne disease signs in dogs?

Most tick-borne diseases in dogs look similar, so differentiating between types is difficult without testing. Tick diseases can also be challenging because clinical signs often take some time to develop, so your dog is not likely to become ill immediately following a tick bite. You may not notice an issue for months, and the disease may occasionally flare up. If you pull a tick off your dog, keep an eye out for these signs:

  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Shifting leg lameness
  • Joint pain
  • Swollen joints
  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Neurologic issues
  • Ocular changes
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

As tick-borne diseases cause many vague signs, your veterinarian can determine which disease may have affected your pet by your location, a physical exam, and diagnostic testing. Based on your dog’s clinical signs and disease process, treatment will vary from an antibiotic course, to intensive hospitalization and veterinary care.

How can I prevent my dog from getting ticks?

Whether you have a puppy who wanders off and gets into everything, or a mellow old hound who is content to lounge on the couch, tick protection is simple. Discuss the options with your veterinarian to help decide on the best tick-prevention product for your pet. Depending on your preference, you can protect your pet with an oral or topical preventive that can last from one to three months.

In addition to year-round tick prevention, shield your furry friend from the dangers of ticks with an extensive comb-through after an outdoors adventure. The tiny nymphal stages of ticks are especially difficult to find, so ensure you check your pet thoroughly for ticks, including in the ears, around the collar, and between the toes, as ticks can reach their victims from tall weeds, grasses, and shrubs.

If Lyme disease is prevalent in your area, speak with your veterinarian about vaccinating against this tick-borne illness. Unfortunately, vaccinations are not available for the other tick diseases, so year-round prevention is your best option for protecting your pet.

What should I do if my dog gets a tick?

If a tick manages to sneak past your defenses and you find one on your furry pal, remove it carefully or call your vet to have them do if you are not comfortable. Grasp the tick as close as possible to your pet’s skin—avoid grabbing the tick’s body—and steadily pull up and out until the tick releases its hold. Do not use alcohol, nail polish, or a lighted match to force the tick to give up its grip, as this will likely either injure your pet, or cause the tick to inject more bacteria into your dog’s bloodstream.

After you’ve removed the tick thoroughly clean the bite area and monitor for signs of swelling, redness, or irritation, and contact your veterinarian if a problem develops. But, keeping your pet on a year-round prevention product, and checking thoroughly for unattached ticks, can help you avoid a tick-borne disease.


Sources:
https://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/infectious-parasitic/6-tick-diseases-dogs
https://vetgirlontherun.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/LymeJLEE52014.pdf
https://www.merckvetmanual.com/dog-owners/disorders-affecting-multiple-body-systems-of-dogs/ehrlichiosis-and-related-infections-in-dogs
https://www.merckvetmanual.com/dog-owners/blood-disorders-of-dogs/blood-parasites-of-dogs?query=babesiosi in dogs