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Ticks and Lyme Disease in Dogs

Ticks are external parasites that feed on the blood of unlucky host animals such as our canine companions. Like mites and spiders, ticks are arachnids. The brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus) and the American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis), examples of ticks that commonly affect dogs, require three feedings to complete their life cycles.

How Are Ticks Transmitted to Dogs?

Ticks are most active in from spring through fall and live in tall brush or grass, where they may attach to dogs playing on their turf. These parasites prefer to stay close to the head, neck, feet and ear area. In severe infestations, however, they can be found anywhere on a dog's body.

How Do I Know if My Dog Has Ticks?

Ticks are visible to the naked eye. During the warmer months, it's a good idea to check your dog regularly for these parasites. If you do spot a tick, it is important to take care when removing it. Any contact with the tick's blood can potentially transmit infection to your dog or even to you! Treat the area with rubbing alcohol and pluck the parasite with tweezers, making sure you've gotten the biting head and other body parts. Since it may only take a few hours for disease to be transmitted from an attached tick, it is ideal for your dog to be evaluated by a veterinarian soon after any ticks are found.

Are Certain Dogs Prone to Ticks?

Ticks can be found all over the world. But dogs who live in warm climates and certain wooded areas of the Northeast, where ticks are particularly prominent, might be more prone due to increased exposure.

What Are Some Complications Associated with Ticks in Dogs?

  • Blood loss
  • Anemia
  • Tick paralysis
  • Skin irritation or infection

Ticks can also transmit diseases such as Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, all of which can cause serious complications and are potentially fatal without prompt and proper treatment.