By Elizabeth Racine, DVM
Summer has arrived, and with it comes the opportunity for lots of fun, outdoor activities with your dog. But summer in many areas of the United States also means a resurgence of ticks. In addition to being a nuisance, ticks can transmit serious diseases to your dog through their bites. Fortunately, protecting your dog from tick-borne illnesses is fairly simple with the right tools.
Common tick-borne diseases in dogs
The species of tick and types of tick-borne disease your dog may be exposed to will largely depend on your geographic area. If your dog will be traveling with you this summer, it's also important to consider the disease prevalence in the areas you may be visiting. The Parasite Prevalence Maps published by the Companion Animal Parasite Council can help you determine which diseases your dog may be exposed to in your area.
Common tick-borne diseases in the United States include:
- Lyme Disease
- Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
Symptoms of tick-borne disease in dogs vary depending on the disease and the stage of infection. Early diagnosis and treatment of tick-borne illness is crucial to ensure the best outcome. If you think your dog may be sick, it’s best to take him to a veterinarian for an examination. Your veterinarian may also recommend annual testing for certain tick-borne diseases if they are particularly prevalent in your area.
Protecting your dog from ticks
You can reduce your dog’s risk of contracting these common diseases by limiting his exposure to ticks. Keeping your dog on a flea and tick preventive medication is the best way to ensure he is protected.
There are many options for flea and tick prevention available, including both topical and oral medications. Your veterinarian can help you determine the best preventive medication for your dog based on factors such as the common species of ticks in your area and your dog’s lifestyle. In some areas, your veterinarian may recommend keeping your dog on preventive medications year round.
You can also protect your dog by avoiding places where ticks like to hang out, such as long grasses and wooded areas. If you do find a tick on your dog, remove it right away. Ticks that are crawling on your dog can easily be brushed off, while those that are embedded require a little more finesse to remove. To remove an embedded tick, use tweezers or a “Tick Twister” to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and gently pull upward away from the skin. Try to avoid crushing the tick when you remove it, and make sure you do not leave any pieces of it behind. Always check your dog for ticks after spending time outside, particularly in the warmer months when ticks are most active.
If in doubt, ask your vet
Tick-borne diseases can be serious for your dog, but they can be prevented. Keeping your dog up to date preventive medications and thoroughly examining your dog for ticks after outdoor activities will help keep your dog safe this summer. As always, your veterinarian is your best resource for more information on keeping your dog healthy and protected from ticks.
Editor's note: Read more here about tick-borne diseases in dogs.