This is a guest post from Bill Sweeney. Bill works for a pest control company in Indiana and is no stranger to ticks. He always makes sure to check his dogs for ticks after returning from walks in the woods.
Three seasons out the year, ticks are a pet owner’s worst nightmare. Your dog goes out to play in the yard or comes back from a hike in the woods, and you realize that he has brought along a friend. Any kind of a bug is irritation enough, but a tick carries serious potential health concerns that can’t be ignored. The good news is that if you’re armed with a little information, preventing ticks and caring for your dog in the event of a tick bite doesn’t have to be difficult.
What is a tick?
A tick is in the arachnid family, related to creatures such as spiders and mites. Since ticks can’t jump, they climb blades of grass or other vegetation to reach a height where they can easily jump onto an animal. They sense animals through biochemical signatures as they are looking for food. Once a tick finds a host, they feed on blood until they become engorged and fall off. Ticks are most active during the Summer and Fall months, although they are a risk at any time of year depending upon where you live.
How can I prevent a tick?
There are a number of options to prevent a tick from attaching itself to your dog. The most effective option is an over the counter spot treatment preventative such as Frontline or PetAmour. These spot treatments come in the form of tubes of liquid. Once every three to four weeks, you treat the area on your dog’s shoulder blades and ensure that the liquid reaches the skin through the fur. The dog is then protected from ticks, fleas, and other critters. Other options exist including flea collars, powders, and sprays. If you live in an area with a high concentration of ticks, you may require a combination of methods in order to successfully prevent ticks. You should always do a thorough tick check when your dog comes in from the outdoors or at regular intervals such as weekly.
What should I do if my dog gets a tick?
If despite your best efforts your dog gets a tick, the careful and immediate removal of the tick is the best thing you can do. Ticks carry Lyme disease and other health issues. Common methods suggest squeezing a tick, burning it, or applying chemicals to get it to back out. These do not work.
To remove a tick, first put on gloves or use a paper towel to cover your hands. Using tweezers or a tick removal tool, lightly grip the tick near the head and remove slowly and firmly. It’s important to get the entire tick out of the dog’s skin. Once removed, place the tick fully submerged in rubbing alcohol until dead. Do not squish it. Disinfect the area of the bite on your dog with a bit of rubbing alcohol and then apply a dab of antibiotic cream to prevent infection.
How can I watch for Lyme disease?
Lyme disease becomes a focus for dog owners in one of two ways. Sometimes the dog is bitten by a tick and the owner watches the dog, concerned that symptoms may appear. In other cases, your dog may be acting weird and eventually you realize that he may be displaying signs of Lyme disease. There is real cause for concern. Lyme disease is the most common tick transmitted disease in dogs.
Symptoms can include lameness, inflammation in joints, decreased appetite, and depression. If left untreated, it can damage the kidneys and even the heart or nervous system.
If you suspect Lyme disease or have concerns based on a recent tick bite, bring your dog to the vet immediately. She will conduct an examination and a full blood profile. If the diagnosis is positive for Lyme disease, your dog will be prescribed a month long course of antibiotics.
Tick bites and Lyme disease are real threats to dogs that live in suburban and rural areas, and spend any time playing outdoors. Being educated about where ticks live, what to look for, how to prevent them, and the strategies for detecting Lyme disease should put your mind at ease and allow you to enjoy time outdoors this Summer and Fall with your dog.