Beware Of Ticks When Enjoying The Outdoors With Your Dog

Warmer weather in the Carolinas often means that many of us will be spending more time outside with our dogs. With these outdoor activities comes an increased risk of exposure to diseases caused by a tick bite.

dog in grassTicks are nasty little parasites that attach themselves to dogs and feed on the blood of our canine friends. During this process, they can infect thousands of dogs each year with tick-transmitted diseases. The most common diseases that are caused by ticks and transmitted to dogs include:

•  Canine Ehrlichiosis – As one of the most dangerous and common diseases carried by ticks, Canine Ehrlichiosis can cause weight loss, fever, nose bleeds, severe swelling in the legs. Loss of appetite, depression, and runny eyes and noses are also common symptoms of this disease. Symptoms may occur immediately after a bite.

•  Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever – While Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever typically lasts for a few weeks, it can result in death and should be considered very serious. This disease is carried by multiple types of ticks and can cause fever, stiffness, neurological problems and skin lesions.

•  Lyme Disease – This painful condition from a tick bite can impact dogs and humans. It causes swollen joints, severe fatigue, overall stiffness, and fever. Your dog may also show a complete loss of appetite. It may take these symptoms quite some time to appear after a tick bite.

•  Dog Tick Fever (Canine Anaplasmosis) – Also known as dog fever, this disease results in similar symptoms to other tick diseases, including fever, loss of appetite, stiff joints and lethargy. However, with Dog Tick Fever, seizures, vomiting and diarrhea may also occur.

•  Canine Babesiosis & Canine Bartonellosis – Symptoms for these diseases may include fever, anemia, pale gums, weakness and vomiting. Some dogs also experience sudden lameness. If left untreated, Canine Bartonellosis can result in heart or liver disease.

•  Canine Hepatozoonosis  – While typically associated with fever, runny eyes and nose, muscle pain and diarrhea with the presence of blood, this disease is often caused when a dog ingests a disease-carrying tick.

Preventing Tick-Related Diseases

It is important to check your dog each day for ticks during warm weather. Dogs that spend time in fields or wooded areas are especially vulnerable to tick exposure. To search for ticks, simply rub your fingers through the dog’s fur and feel for small bumps. Then move the hair and look for a small object that is usually black or dark brown in color. If the tick is not attached to the dog, immediately remove and destroy it. (A toilet flush works great!)

Ticks attached to a dog will vary in size and color based on the amount of blood consumed. The impacted tick may appear as small as a pea or as large as a grape. The tick’s legs may or may not be visible. Remove the tick as quickly as possible, as ticks can infect a dog within 24 to 48 hours. Your vet can educate you regarding how to safely remove a tick that is attached to your dog. The most important thing is to remove the entire body of the tick, avoiding leaving the head attached to the dog’s skin.

Although there is no absolute way to avoid tick bites, tick prevention is the best treatment plan. Very effective products and medications are widely available to lesson the chance that you or your dog will have complications from ticks. It is also important to visit your veterinarian for an annual screening for tick disease.

Ticks are a health hazard for your dog, but they don’t have to ruin your summer. Understanding the danger and how to be vigilant for these parasites will allow you and your dog to enjoy outside activities throughout the coming seasons.

Originally published May 2016 in the Lake Norman Citizen.

Dr. Jean Tuttle is a veterinarian and Certified Veterinary Spinal Manipulation Therapist (CVSMT) with LakeCross Veterinary and 4Paws Animal Rehabilitation & Wellness Clinic in Huntersville. The vets in the big yellow house have been treating pets like family for 20 years. For more information, call 704-948-6300.