Now that Spring has sprung, you may be thinking about spending more time with your dog in the park, or even out hiking in the woods. If so, don’t forget that ticks love the warm weather just as much as you do! Ticks can be found both in rural and in urban park environments, so even if your dog is primarily a city dweller, they may still be at risk.
Ticks can transmit a number of different diseases to dogs. While Lyme Disease is the most widely recognized tick-borne illness in the Northeast, other common pathogens include Canine Ehrlichiosis, Canine Anaplasmosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Canine Babesiosis. Symptoms vary for each specific illness but often include fever, lethargy, joint pain and lameness. Neurologic symptoms may arise in some cases, including seizures. Symptoms may not arise until weeks or even months after infection, making tick-borne diseases very difficult to diagnose and treat.
The best way to address tick-borne disease is prevention! There are many products these days that are designed to kill or keep away ticks before they can transmit disease. Our doctors typically advise the use of topical products, however there are a few oral options that are new to the market and may prove beneficial as well. Have your pet screened for tick-borne diseases every year during their annual exam. If your pets continues to get exposed to ticks despite the use of preventive products, then vaccinating against Lyme may be an option. Make sure to discuss the pros and cons with your veterinarian.
If you do find a tick on your pet, call your vet right away. They may advise you to monitor your pet for symptoms, or ask that you come in for blood tests to determine whether your pet has been infected. The most common course of treatment is antibiotic therapy. Pets with long-term infections may require more complex interventions, including rehabilitation therapy for joint or neurologic conditions.