Getting Your Dog Ready For Summer: Ticks
Despite a bit of a snowy setback this week, the weather is warming up across Canada. We’re careening towards summer after an already mild winter, which means that tick season will start a bit earlier than normal.
Ticks carry a bacteria that can cause Lyme disease, which can lead to lameness, painful joint inflammation and a lack of appetite in dogs. If the disease progresses, it can lead to kidney damage. Lyme disease can generally be treated with antibiotics.
After returning from long walks outside (especially if there’s long grass and shrubbery around) or just at the end of a summer day, give your dog a once-over and check for ticks. If you spend a lot of time outside with your dog, you may want to invest in a pair of tick-removing tweezers, which are specially designed to remove the tick properly (see the list below to find out where you can buy them). If you find a tick, remove it immediately.
How to Remove a Tick
Using tweezers or your fingertips, grab the tick by the head or the mouthparts if they are visible. Do not squeeze the tick’s body, because this can result in the tick releasing more saliva into the skin or the body being detached from the head and mouthparts, which will remain in the skin.
Pull the tick straight out, firmly. Don’t use a jerking or twisting motion.
Using alcohol, lit matches or anything else rumoured to make the tick release its grip may only make the tick deposit more saliva into the skin, and your dog will probably not appreciate it very much.
Once the tick is removed, apply an antibiotic ointment like Polysporin to the area.
Preventing Tick Problems
Dog owners can choose from a slew of flea, tick and heart worm preventatives at their veterinarian’s office every spring. Your vet will likely prod you with a friendly reminder postcard in the mail when it’s time to come in for your annual spring appointment.
Bug sprays are also available for pets, and they can even keep pesky mosquitos away. Most bug repellents for dogs contain an essential oil, usually citronella oil, which is strong-smelling and deters pests. You may also have some luck checking your local health food store for natural bug repellants for children that don’t contain harmful pesticides like DEET. These also use citronella oil, and if it’s good enough for organic kids it’s fine for your dog – and usually a bit cheaper.
You can spray this on your dog’s collar or on a place he can’t reach to lick it off – between his shoulder blades for example, where you’d also apply your monthly heart worm preventative.
There is also a Lyme disease vaccination for dogs. The Lyme disease vaccination is somewhat controversial as there is a potential for long-term side-effects to develop. Talk to your veterinarian and ask if they see a lot of cases of Lyme disease in your neighbourhood or city, because the prevalence of Lyme disease in dogs greatly depends on the local deer tick population. A local vet is best suited to discuss the prevalence of Lyme disease in your specific area as well as make recommendations for your dog to help you choose whether the vaccine is an option for your dog.
Have a great spring and summer, and think warm thoughts!
Where to buy tick-removing tweezers: