Ticks and Lyme Disease in Dogs
are external parasites that feed on the blood of unlucky host animals such as
our canine companions. Like mites and spiders, ticks are arachnids. The brown
dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus) and the American dog tick
(Dermacentor variabilis), examples of ticks that commonly affect dogs,
require three feedings to complete their life cycles.
How Are Ticks Transmitted to Dogs?
Ticks are most active in from spring through fall and live in tall brush or
grass, where they may attach to dogs playing on their turf. These parasites
prefer to stay close to the head, neck, feet and ear area. In severe
infestations, however, they can be found anywhere on a dog’s body.
How Do I Know if My Dog Has Ticks?
Ticks are visible to the naked eye. During the warmer months, it’s a good
idea to check your dog regularly for these parasites. If you do spot a tick, it
is important to take care when removing it. Any contact with the tick’s blood
can potentially transmit infection to your dog or even to you! Treat the area
with rubbing alcohol and pluck the parasite with tweezers, making sure you’ve
gotten the biting head and other body parts. Since it may only take a few hours
for disease to be transmitted from an attached tick, it is ideal for your dog
to be evaluated by a veterinarian soon after any ticks are found.
Are Certain Dogs Prone to Ticks?
Ticks can be found all over the world. But dogs who live in warm climates
and certain wooded areas of the Northeast, where ticks are particularly
prominent, might be more prone due to increased exposure.
What Are Some Complications Associated with Ticks in Dogs?
- Blood loss
- Tick paralysis
- Skin irritation or infection
Ticks can also transmit diseases such as Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis and
Rocky Mountain spotted fever, all of which can cause serious complications and
are potentially fatal without prompt and proper treatment.
My Dog Has Been Bitten by a Tick! What Should I Do?
Remove the tick, as noted above, and consult with your veterinarian, who
will help you to prevent future infestation. Your vet may also perform blood
tests to rule out diseases transmitted by ticks.
What Is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that can affect humans, dogs, cats and
other mammals. Its primary carrier is the deer tick (Ixodes scapularis),
which often feeds on rodents in its early stages. Later, the tick can attach to
a dog or human and transmit the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. Clinical
signs include depression, swelling of the lymph nodes, loss of appetite and
fever, as well as lameness and swollen, painful joints. Renal failure can also
be a consequence of Lyme disease.