Ticks by Dr. Clayton Greenway

Here are some important facts to know about ticks from Dr. Clayton Greenway:

1.  Ticks can carry Lyme disease.  They have to be embedded in the skin for 24 hours to transmit the disease so you can prevent contraction of it by looking your dog over every night to remove any ticks picked up during the day.  Deer ticks are the only ticks that carry Lyme disease and in Ontario, only 10% of the ticks that bite your dog will be Deer ticks.  Of those ticks, only 10% will carry Lyme disease.  This means that you have a 1 in 100 chance of encountering a tick carrying Lyme disease.

2.  Test for Lyme disease if you think your dog has encountered a tick.  Lyme disease is something that your dog will carry for its life because it is difficult to impossible to get rid of.  It lays dormant and then creates symptoms unexpectedly at random times, often months or years apart.  The symptoms are often non-specific and can be simply lethargy, fever, and enlarged lymph nodes.  Joint pain and skin rashes can occur as well.  In some cases, it can be damaging to the kidneys.  For this reason, it is important to test for Lyme.  I recommend that if you have ever seen a tick on your dog, you should perform a 4Dx test every year instead of a Heartworm test.  The 4Dx test is only $5 more expensive at our clinic and looks for both Lyme disease and Heartworm, as well as other tick borne illnesses.

3.  If your dog has ever had a tick, remember to tell your vet.  The symptoms of Lyme disease can be so non-specific, that veterinarians will often not look for it as the first step in diagnosis.  A dog presenting with fever, lethargy and enlarged lymph nodes, could be caused by so many diseases that a veterinarian may perform blood work, radiographs, and in-hospital treatments that can be extremely expensive before doing a simple test for Lyme disease.  If a quick Lyme test is performed and comes back positive, in most cases, it’s a simple matter of sending your dog home with antibiotics.  I’ll admit that if you see a dog in the winter with these symptoms, it can be difficult to bring Lyme disease to mind, so try to remember to bring up ticks in your answer to history questions.

4.  Its important to remove ticks properly.  They embed their head in the skin and if you simply pull them off, the head will remain in the skin and cause a skin reaction.  You can drop by any veterinary clinic and ask for a tick remover.  These are small plastic hooks that remove ticks extremely easily with the head intact.  I would hope that the clinic you visit would have them ad give them to you for free.  Our clinic gives them out for free because we get them for free from the pharmaceutical companies.

5.  Prevent tick exposure every season.  This can most reliably be achieved with preventive medication.  I recommend Advantix II which is a monthly medication you apply to the skin.  Fontline Plus is effective as well.  Revolution, Advantage Multi and Sentinel which are most commonly used for Fleas and Heartworm but I do not rely on them to prevent ticks even though some of them are licensed to assist in the control of ticks.  You can also consider other barriers against ticks, which would be protective clothing you can find online and simply avoiding known tick infested areas.