According to the website www.petsandparasites.org, there were over 300,000 dogs tested for Lyme disease in North Carolina last year. Of these, more than 7,000 tested positive.
Those results might not be shocking in our hot, humid state, but the general trend of ticks across the country shows an increase in areas that were previously not known for tick-borne illnesses. That means more pets and people are increasingly at risk.
This begs the question: if you find a tick on your pet, do you know what to do?
Tick-borne illnesses are on the rise. This is due in part to the geographic spread of deer ticks, but with short, mild winters becoming the norm, ticks are out looking for blood meals year-round.
Lyme disease isn’t transmitted immediately. It can take nearly two days for ticks to pass the bacterium responsible for causing Lyme disease to a host. What’s more, tick bites are painless, and symptoms of Lyme disease can be subtle. For these reasons alone, it’s critical to inspect your pet every day for the presence of these minute parasites. Check your pet’s legs, belly, tail, ears, chest, neck, and back.
Removing a Tick on Your Pet
There are many methods out there to remove a tick from your pet (using a hot match, Vaseline, dish soap, and more), but the best way to safely remove a tick on your pet includes the following:
- Wear rubber gloves to protect yourself from whatever the tick may be carrying.
- Using a pair of pointed tweezers or small forceps, pull the tick out like you would a splinter.
- Grab the tick as close as possible to the skin, and slowly pull away with a steady, rearward pressure (this can be tricky, so take your time).
- Do this as calmly as possible to reduce the risk of leaving part of the tick underneath your pet’s skin.
- Place the tick in a sealed container in case future testing is needed.
- Clean your pet’s skin with soap and water, and apply an antibiotic ointment.
Covering yourself with tick repellent and wearing long pants and sleeves can deter ticks from attaching to your body. However, they can still hitch a ride on your clothing and fall off somewhere in your home, so always check yourself before coming inside. Also be sure to manage areas in your backyard that may be attractive to ticks, such as overgrown, shady areas.
One of the best ways to prevent Lyme disease in dogs is to ensure their parasite prevention medication is up-to-date. If there was a lapse over the summer or if you suspect your pet was bitten, we recommend conducting a quick blood test. Also, if your pet’s lifestyle centers on outdoor exploration, discuss the Lyme disease vaccine with your veterinarian.