Dear Dr. Gaddy,
I have pulled 2 ticks off of my dog this week. I’m nervous she could get Lyme Disease. What should I do?
– Jeff, Jackson NJ
New Jersey is a popular state for many different breeds of ticks that carry diseases such as Lyme, Ehrlichiosis, Anaplasmosis, and more. Now that the weather is warming up, the ticks are coming out! So, this is the perfect time of year to discuss methods for prevention of tick exposure and detection of any tick-borne illness in your pet.
It is important to do daily “tick checks” on your dog or cat, especially after coming in from outside. Run your fingers slowly over their body for any bumps or scabs. Even check inside their ears, between toes, and around their face. If you do find an attached tick, the best way to remove them is with a pair of tweezers. Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible without pinching your pet, then pull straight out. If you are not comfortable doing this, your veterinarian can remove the tick for you. After removing the tick, make sure you wash your hands. The tick must be attached to the skin for 24-48 hours to transmit disease to your pet, so prompt removal is very important.
Another important aspect of preventing exposure to ticks is by using a Parasiticide. This is a medication applied topically to the skin or given orally as a pill. There are many products on the market, so it is important to discuss with your veterinarian which one may be best for your pet.
There are also several vaccines on the market to prevent Lyme Disease in dogs. Again, a good topic to discuss with your vet if your pet should receive this vaccine.
If your pet has been bitten by a tick, it may not necessarily be recommended to initiate testing or treatment if they are not exhibiting symptoms of illness. These symptoms can arrive 2-6 months after tick exposure, and may include lameness, fever, lethargy, or enlarged lymph nodes. There is a screening blood test which will detect natural exposure to Lyme Disease. However, it has been reported that only about 10% of positive dogs will develop signs of illness. Therefore, if your pet is positive, it is important to discuss with your veterinarian if further testing or treatment is recommended.
While our pets are enjoying this beautiful weather outside, so are the ticks. So make sure your pets are properly protected this spring!