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

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

Ticks can be worrying for your dog, but more importantly than ticks themselves is their ability to spread. Ticks that embed in a dog’s skin can transmit a variety of serious and even life-threatening infectious diseases including:

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

Ticks can produce also produce inflammation and potentially bacterial infection at the direct sight of the bite.


Prevention strategies

Prevention is key when it comes to keeping your dog free from tick-borne diseases. Here are eight tips for keeping your dog free from tick-borne diseases and illnesses:


1. Learn when it’s “tick season”

Ticks are constant in North America, and in accordance, year-round tick prevention is recommended. However, the time of year they are most problematic varies from region to region. 

Ask your veterinarian when tick season is for you. In North America, Summer might be the time of year you associate with ticks - the weather is nice and you can get outdoors with your best friend more often, however, this may not always be the case, Fall time is another very prevalent season for ticks as well, so be vigilant with your tick control measures.


2. Know where ticks live

Ticks generally prefer areas with dense vegetation. Much of their time is spent on the ground, but they are adept at crawling up shrubs, grasses, and other brush. This enhances their ability to successfully leap onto any living animal passing by. Avoid exposing your dog to extremely shrubby and grassy areas, particularly during peak tick seasons, or be sure to properly examine your dog if you do plan to expose them to such environments.

3. Utilize prevention products

There are a variety of products on the market that prevent and/or kill ticks. But be vigilant with what tick prevention products you utilize, for example, tick collars might not be best for dogs who swim, or engage in an excessive amount of “fetch” or mouthy play as they possibly could ingest those collar chemicals.

Other tick-prevention options include monthly tick medication administered orally or topically (to the skin). There are many tick prevention products to choose from and most are combined with flea protection medication as well. 

Be sure to talk with your veterinarian about which tick prevention products make the most sense for your dog.


4. Groom your dog routinely

While grooming your dog be sure to perform a “tick check” on your dog. This is recommended daily, especially following any outdoor excursions in tick territory. Getting rid of any ticks before they can embed eliminates the possibility of any major disease transmission. Some tick hot spots are your dog’s neck, head, and ears. Pay particularly close attention to these areas.


5. Save any ticks you remove from your dog

It may sound odd, but saving any ticks you do remove just might prove to be useful. 

Different species of ticks transmit different diseases. Given that the symptoms of the various tick-borne diseases overlap, knowing the type of tick your dog was exposed to may help your veterinarian home in on a diagnosis quicker. Dunking and storing any removed ticks in a disposable container filled with isopropyl alcohol will preserve them should your dog become sick and you need to show the tick to your veterinarian.

6. Quickly remove any embedded ticks properly

Do your best to quickly remove any embedded ticks as soon as possible. The less time a tick has spent attached to your dog dramatically lessens the odds of any disease transmission, especially if you can catch a tick before it has been completely embedded.

You’ll find dozens of recommendations online describing how to remove an embedded tick, so be cautious of what you might read or come across when looking into tick removal. Get veterinary recommendations on how best to remove ticks from your dog and whichever method may be decided, be sure to wear gloves to eliminate any risk of disease. 

Commonly explored methods of tick removal that are NOT effective:

  • Burning a tick - you risk burning or singeing your dog’s haircoat
  • Coating the tick in lubricant - this does nothing more than make the tick more slippery and frustrating to remove unless you can directly apply a thin layer of lubricant onto your dog's skin
  • Using acetone - this method makes the tick brittle and more likely to crunch upon removal making it much more difficult to determine the type of tick if your dog does exhibit symptoms of illness 

7. Consider a Lyme disease vaccine for your dog

The Lyme disease vaccine has been available now for several years. 

Most vets who specialize in infectious diseases recommend against vaccinating dogs who do not live in areas where there is a high incidence of Lyme disease. There is a general lack of agreement about exactly how much protection the vaccine provides as well, so discussion with your veterinarian on this topic is important.

8. Understand any symptoms of disease and seek veterinarian consultation

Rarely do dogs exposed to ticks ever develop a serious tick-borne disease. But for those who do, early recognition of symptoms, and an expedited treatment process enhance the likelihood of a positive resolution. If your dog has any tick exposure, talk with your veterinarian about what tick-borne disease symptoms you should be on the lookout for. 

Questions to ask your veterinarian:

  • When is tick season?
  • Which tick prevention products do you recommend for my dog?
  • Should I consider the Lyme disease vaccination for my dog?
  • What are the main symptoms of tick-borne diseases I should know about?

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call us here at Muirfield Animal Hospital, our veterinary team is the best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.