Recently at a staff meeting we discussed what to do if a pet owner finds a tick on their dog. In response to questions from staff I have prepared a list of frequently asked questions. While there is no “one size fits all” answer to every question this covers many of the questions and concerns that pet owners have when finding a tick.
1) I found a tick on my dog. What should I do? Any tick found on a dog should be removed ASAP. You can remove it yourself or we can do it for you. Make sure to check your dog and any other pets in the house thoroughly for any additional ticks.
2) How do I remove the tick? Grab the tick with a tweezers where it is attached to the skin and pull it off. There may be some thickening and crusting of skin. Clean skin with hydrogen peroxide or water. If area is mildly irritated you can apply Neosporin twice daily for 1 week. If area is significantly irritated (swelling, crusting, continual bleeding), or if you are not sure then we recommend bringing your dog in for an exam. Make sure to wrap the tick in a paper towel and crush it before discarding it.
3) What if I was unable to remove the whole tick? Sometimes the sharp mouthparts of the tick remain in the dog. Usually the skin around the area will become thickened. Crust will develop and the area of skin containing the mouthparts will slough off. If you are not sure that the tick was completely removed an exam is recommended.
4) Will there be a charge for tick removal? If a nurse removes tick then no. There may be an exam charge if a doctor needs to look at the pet.
5) What diseases can be transmitted by ticks? Ticks can transmit many infections. The 3 main ones that we are concerned about are: Lyme Disease, Anaplasmosis , Ehrlichiosis
6) What are the symptoms of these diseases? What should I look for?
a. Lyme disease: 2-5 months after infection dogs can have joint pain and fever. Rarely dogs will develop kidney disease (symptoms are lethargy, vomiting, and decreased appetite).
b. Anaplasmosis: Fever, decreased appetite, lethargy, bleeding disorders, joint pain
c. Ehrlichiosis : There can be an acute phase (decreased appetite, lethargy, fever) and a chronic phase (bleeding disorders, joint pain)
7) Why does the tick need to be removed ASAP?
a. The longer a tick is attached the more likely it is to transmit infection
8) How will I know if my dog is infected with any of the above diseases? There is a blood test called 4dx that tests for antibodies to the above infections.
9) When should this test be done? It can take the body several weeks to produce antibodies to theses tick-transmitted infection so it is recommended that the test be run 4 weeks after exposure to a tick.
10) Does my dog need to go on antibiotics after having a tick removed. Infection with the above agents is uncommon so antibiotic treatment is only recommended in patients with a definitive diagnosis.
11) My dog is on a topical flea/tick preventative and she is still getting ticks. Why is this? The available products are very good but not 100%. This means that if your dog is exposed to hundreds of ticks the rare one may attach. If you find that the product you are using is not working talk to your vet about other options. We cannot vouch for products purchased over the counter or online.