8 Tips for Keeping Your Dog Free From Tick-Borne Diseases

What are Tick-Borne Diseases?

Tick-borne pathogens can be transmitted to humans through tick bites. Ticks can carry bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Lyme disease, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, anaplasmosis, Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness, Tick-Borne Relapsing Fever, and tularemia are among the most common tick-borne diseases. In the United States, tick-borne diseases include Colorado tick fever, Powassan encephalitis, and Q fever. Lyme disease is the tick-borne illness that is most frequently reported to medical professionals in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention received reports of over 22,500 confirmed cases of Lyme disease in 2010, in addition to 7,500 probable cases (CDC).

If they work in tick-infested areas, outdoor workers are at risk of contracting tick-borne diseases. Workplaces with woods, bushes, tall grass, or leaf litter are more likely to have ticks. Outdoor workers in most parts of the United States should be especially cautious during the tick season, which occurs in the spring, summer, and fall. In some warmer climates, ticks may be active all year. And pets are more likely to be targeted by ticks than human beings.   Ticks are vexing little creatures, but their ability to spread disease is far more important than their annoyance factor. Ticks that become embedded in a dog’s skin have the potential to transmit several infectious diseases, some of which can be fatal, including the following:

  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
  • Ehrlichiosis
  • Anaplasmosis
  • Babesiosis
  • Lyme disease (Borrelia)

Ticks have also been linked to a rare neurological condition known as “tick paralysis,” which can be problematic. Last but not least, the site of a tick bite can become infected with inflammation and bacteria directly from the tick itself. Prevention strategies

When it comes to protecting your dog from diseases that are transmitted by ticks, prevention is the most important step you can take. To accomplish this goal, here are 8 practical tips:

1. Learn which season is “tick season”

Ticks are common across the continent of North America, and preventing tick bites should be a priority throughout the year. However, the time of year when ticks cause the most problems varies greatly from one region to the next. Enquire with your local veterinarian about the time of year that tick season occurs in your area. Now is the time of year when tick prevention and control efforts require the utmost attention and vigilance.

2. Know the lay of the land

Ticks are more likely to be found in areas that have substantial amounts of vegetation. Although they spend the majority of their time on the ground, they are experts at climbing up to the tops of grasses and shrubs. This is even though that they spend the majority of their time on the ground. From this elevated vantage point, they have a better chance of successfully jumping onto an animal that is passing by. It is in your best interest to keep your dog away from bushy and grassy areas like these, especially during the height of tick season.

3. Use tick prevention products

There is a wide selection of medication available today that can either repel or eradicate ticks. Some tick collars are effective, but they should not be used on dogs that swim frequently or engage in “mouthy play” with other canines because the chemicals contained in the collar could be swallowed by the dog that your pet is interacting with.

Other methods of protecting yourself from tick bites include taking a medication once a month, either orally or topically (to the skin). There is a wide selection of products available, the majority of which combine flea treatment with one of the other available options. Have a conversation with your dog’s veterinarian about the tick prevention products that are best suited for your canine companion.

4. Frisk your dog daily

It is important to conduct daily “tick checks” on your dog, especially after returning home after being outside. Eliminating the pests before they have a chance to set their eggs and spread disease can be accomplished by destroying them before they have the opportunity to do so. It is important to pay particular attention to your dog’s neck, head, and ears because these are the areas where ticks are most likely to attach themselves to your pet.

5. Save the ticks you remove

I know it sounds disgusting, but keeping the ticks that you remove could very well come in handy later on. Ticks have the potential to spread a wide variety of diseases to their hosts. Because that the signs and symptoms of the various diseases carried by ticks can be confused with one another, informing your veterinarian about the species of tick to which your dog was exposed could speed up the diagnostic process. I suggest drowning the ticks in isopropyl alcohol and storing them in a disposable container filled with the liquid. If your dog becomes ill, give a copy of these to the veterinarian who is treating him or her.

6. Remove embedded ticks promptly and properly

Do everything in your power to get rid of any ticks that have become embedded as soon as possible. Spending less time attached to your dog reduces the risk of disease transmission between the two of you.

You can search the internet and find dozens of different recommendations that explain how to remove an embedded tick. Be skeptical of everything that you read. It is ineffective to try to kill a tick by torching it with a hot match, and you run the risk of singeing your dog’s fur in the process. It is pointless to attempt to remove a tick by smearing it with Vaseline® or another type of lubricant because doing so only makes the tick slipperier and more difficult to remove. In addition, acetone, a chemical that is commonly found in products designed to remove nail polish, causes the tick to become brittle that it will break apart when it is removed.

Have a conversation with your local veterinarian about the best way to extract ticks that are embedded. Wear gloves at all times, regardless of the approach you take, to reduce or eliminate the possibility of disease transmission to your own body.

7. Consider the Lyme disease vaccine

The vaccine for Lyme disease has been on the market for several years at this point. The majority of veterinarians who focus their practices on infectious diseases continue to advise their clients not to vaccinate dogs who do not reside in regions with a high rate of Lyme disease transmission. In addition, there isn’t universal agreement regarding the level of protection that the vaccine can provide from the disease. It is strongly suggested that you discuss this matter with your veterinarian to get their input on the situation.

8. Know the symptoms and seek early veterinary intervention

Rest assured that the vast majority of dogs who are exposed to ticks will not contract a disease that is transmitted by ticks. However, for those individuals who do experience symptoms, it will increase the likelihood of a positive outcome that is achieved through early recognition of the symptoms, rapid arrival at a diagnosis, and prompt treatment by your veterinarian. If your dog has been exposed to ticks, you should consult with your veterinarian about the signs and symptoms you should be on the lookout for.

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