Did you know that May is Lyme Disease Awareness month? We also just dealt with a tick episode on our pups, so we figured what better time to shed light on this topic than now?! Here are some quick facts on these pesky (and potentially dangerous) critters.
Ticks are part of the arachnid (spider) family, and require blood to live. They often use dogs as hosts, biting into the skin and latching on to survive. They’re active when it’s 4 degrees or warmer, which means that depending on the weather, ticks can be active anywhere from 9-12 months of the year! Although ticks prefer to spend time in areas with tall grass, you can even find them in your own backyard, so it is important to be vigilant wherever you and your pup are.
If You Find A Tick On Your Dog, What Do You Do?
Don’t panic! You can safely remove a tick from your pup, or if you are uncomfortable doing so can take your dog to the vet. If you are going to remove the tick yourself, you will want to use a pair of fine-tipped tweezers or a tool called a tick twister. Ticks attach to a host by inserting their mouthparts, which can lead to inflammation in the area of the bite, and some ticks produce a sticky substance to help them stay adhered. This means you do need to pull firmly when you remove the tick and it is normal to feel a small amount of resistance. Grasp the tick with tweezers as close to the head of the tick (near your dog’s skin) as possible. Most importantly, pull back with a straight motion without twisting as this can cause the tick’s mouthparts to break off and remain under the skin (gross, we know!) Place the tick in a container such as an empty pill bottle or a plastic bag, but do not crush it or drown it in alcohol if you would like to have it tested. *(Ticks typically require 24-48 hours of feeding before they can successfully transmit infections so prompt removal is important.)*
Once you have removed a tick, you can bring it to your vet to see what kind of tick it is. Only certain types of ticks carry lyme disease, although ehrlichia and anaplasmosis are also tick-borne diseases that can affect our dogs. The deer tick (also known as the black-legged tick) is the most common tick to carry lyme disease. This same tick can also transmit anaplasmosis, which is less commonly transmitted by the brown dog tick.
Ehrlichia is the third tick-borne disease most vets recommend testing for, and is transmitted by the brown dog tick, the American dog tick, and the lone star tick.
Your vet may suggest sending the tick to an animal laboratory to also have the tick tested for disease. It’s important not to take a tick that you have removed from your pet to a human doctor for testing as this will skew data, as well as potentially put the lab at risk if the source is not disclosed.
Your vet may suggest testing your dog’s blood at least 6 weeks after the tick bite. They will perform a 4DX test, which checks for heartworm (transmitted by mosquitoes, not ticks), lyme disease, anaplasmosis, and ehrlichia.
Note: even if your dog is on flea and tick prevention, it’s important to check your dog over carefully, especially if they have been in an area where ticks are very active. When you are checking your dog for ticks, pay particular attention to their paw pads between their toes, in their groin area, in and around their ears and near their eyes, and around their tail. Speak to your veterinarian about what the best prevention options are for your dog based on their lifestyle and where you live. It is important to know that cats are quite sensitive to the ingredients in many tick prevention medications.
We hope this makes you feel more prepared to tackle the beautiful summer weather with your bud! Don’t forget to protect and check yourself for ticks, too - they like humans and doggos alike!