Fall has arrived, and with this new season comes a familiar threat: ticks. Though ticks are active in the spring and summer, they become a particular threat in the autumn because they hide in the fallen leaves. As a dog owner, now is the perfect time to refocus your efforts and make sure you're doing all that you can to protect your canine companion from the various dangers that ticks present.
What Risks Do Ticks Present To Dogs?
Although there are 15 species of ticks known to live in Tennessee, three of them are quite common and present the biggest threat.
The brown dog tick is a reddish brown tick that measures 1/8-1/2 inch in length. Lone star ticks, the most common species in Tennessee, are 1/8 inch long with brown bodies and white spots on their backs. American dog ticks are reddish in color with yellow or white markings and are about 1/8-1/2 inch in length.
All three of these types of ticks can transmit diseases to dogs. Some of the specific diseases ticks may pass on to your dog include:
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
Spread by the American dog tick and Lone star tick, this disease causes a range of symptoms including fever, depression, swollen lymph nodes, anorexia and muscle pain. The symptoms appear as soon as two days after a tick bite. The condition is treatable with antibiotics, but some dogs never fully recover even with proper treatment.
Babesiosis is a protozoal infection spread by the American dog tick and brown dog tick. It causes anemia, dark urine, fever, weakness and swollen glands. Severe cases may require hospitalization and supportive therapies like IV fluids and blood transfusions, although most dogs can recover at home.
Lyme disease is less of a concern in Tennessee than further north because deer ticks, the species of tick that carries Lyme disease, are not as common in Tennessee. However, this disease is still somewhat of a threat, and you should certainly call your vet if your dog is showing Lyme symptoms such as stiffness, lack of coordination, lethargy and joint swelling after being bitten by a black tick.
How Can You Protect Your Dog From Ticks?
There are two main ways to keep your dog safe from tick-borne diseases. First, you need to take steps to keep ticks off your dog. Second, you need to know how to check your dog for ticks and safely remove any that you do find.
Keep Ticks off Your Dog
The easiest way to keep ticks from biting your dog is to use a tick repellent treatment. There are many different brands and formulas to choose from. Some are applied topically, and others are fed in the form of a pill. Most last at least a month; some last up to three months. Your vet can recommend one that's right for your dog.
You can also reduce your chances of a tick bite by keeping your yard cleaned up. Rake leaves often, trim back your bushes and do not let brush piles sit in your yard.
Check Your Dog for Ticks
Most tick-borne diseases are not passed on to the dog immediately. If you remove a tick promptly, there's a good chance your dog won't become ill. Check your dog for ticks by running your hands up and down his or her legs and body. Do this after your dog has spent time in the woods or in piles of leaves where ticks may be hiding.
If you do find a tick, remove it by grasping it with tweezers and pulling it away from the body with a steady motion. Flush the tick down the toilet and dab some antiseptic on the bite.
Make note of the date that you found the tick on your dog. If he or she starts showing any worrisome symptoms in the days that follow, contact your veterinarian. For more information about protecting your dog from tick-borne diseases, reach out to our vets at Stone River Veterinary Hospital.