I am not a veterinarian nor medical professional. The information in this article has been researched and sourced at the end of the post. All medical issues or questions regarding your pet’s health or symptoms should always be brought to the attention of your veterinarian for clarification, assessment, advice and treatment
I had always known that along with the sunny spring weather came the increased risk of tick bites and Lyme Disease, but recently I learned that they can be found year-round in different areas. The rule of thumb is that temperatures over five degrees present a nice living environment for ticks, and increase the chances of your dog coming home with a stowaway on board. These pesky intruders can be very dangerous for your pet as well as you and your family. They carry and spread diseases, the most common being Lyme Disease.
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How do I know if my dog has a tick?
After each walk, it is recommended that you do a full body inspection of your dog. This is even more important if you have been in tall grass or wooded areas, as ticks tend to hide in these environments. If your dog sits, lays down, rolls around or even just sniffs the ground, one of these little insects can latch itself onto your pup and begin its mission to burrow into the surface of her skin. By doing a nose to tail inspection, you can find, remove and clean the area of the bite before the tick has enough time to do any damage. The longer a tick remains on your dog, the harder it is to remove. It also has more time to potentially spread any diseases it may be carrying. Ticks can stay on your dog for up to 10 days depending on the age of the tick.
What do ticks look like?
Ticks range in size, from the size of a flea up to about a centimeter long. They have an oval-shaped body and a small head, with spider like legs. When you see or feel one on your dog, you will most likely see the body, as they burrow head-first into the skin. When you do your inspection, be sure you are in a well-lit area. Do both a visual and manual examination. Sometimes the tick buries itself in a particularly furry area, making it difficult to see. By using your finger tips to feel for bumps, you may find one that you overlooked.
How do I remove a tick from my dog?
To remove the tick safely, you must be sure to pull the entire head and body from the skin. There are special tools available for tick removal. People will tell you to use regular tweezers, but they can be very sharp on the ends. This can result in the body being detached from the head, and the head remaining in the dog. This is the one thing you are trying to avoid. The head is the part that is stuck in your dog’s body and the highest risk to your dog’s health.
You may have been told to use a dish soap or Vaseline concoction that will cause the tick to retreat on it’s own. Any vet I have spoken to has advised against these processes as they take longer and may or may not work.
Getting the tick out as quickly as possible is the goal. After it has been plucked out of your dog’s skin, wash the area with hydrogen peroxide and or rubbing alcohol. This will clean the wound left behind by the bite.
Once you have removed the tick, it is advisable to put it in a sealed bag and take it to your vet to be tested for Lyme Disease.
What symptoms should I watch for?
It can take several months for symptoms associated with a tick bite, most notably Lyme Disease, to appear. If at any time during this period she shows signs of fatigue, lethargy, muscle stiffness, joint pain or fever, you should take her to a vet to be tested. Even the testing can take several months. Sometimes the antibody that indicates Lyme Disease takes a while to show up in the blood. This test may have to be repeated a few times. The results will be compared to the previous levels of the antibody to monitor any increases in the levels.
How is Lyme Disease treated?
If found early enough, Lyme Disease can be treated with a simple antibiotic. Your vet may also prescribe pain meds to help with the stiffness and joint pain until the antibiotics run their course and the disease has been cleared from your pup’s system.
How do I prevent my dog from tick related illness?
- Avoiding wooded or grassy areas during peak seasons.
- Early detection from thorough daily inspection.
- Fast removal of any ticks that are present during inspection.
- Topical prevention medication applied between the shoulder blades.
- Oral prevention medication taken at prescribed intervals
DO NOT USE TOPICAL PREVENTION MEDICATION IN A HOME WITH CATS AS THIS MEDICATION IS TOXIC TO CATS
ONLY USE MEDICATION AS PRESCRIBED OR ADVISED BY YOUR TRUSTED VETERINARIAN
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