Animals, especially dogs are more likely to encounter disease-carrying ticks than humans. Animals can become sick with the same tick-borne diseases that affect humans. Vaccines are not available for most of the tick-borne diseases that infect dogs nor do they keep the dogs from bringing ticks into your home. Tick bites on dogs can be very hard to detect, so it’s important to use tick preventative products on your dog. Always discuss with your veterinarian which products are best for your pet. Products meant for dogs should never be used on cats.
Lyme disease can affect pets in various ways. Some animals may display no signs of disease. Others may develop fever, loss of appetite, painful joints, lethargy and vomiting. If left untreated, the spirochete may cause damage to an animal’s eyes, heart, kidneys and nervous system. Treatment should be started as soon as possible to avoid late-stage disease and serious complications.
Check with your veterinarian for tick control products and/or a Lyme vaccine that they consider safe for your animal. Be aware that many common tick repellent products and medications decrease the likelihood of infection, but do not eliminate it. Thus, it is important to do regular tick checks, especially on pets that have been outdoors.
Visual and hands-on tick inspections are especially important to make sure a tick is not hidden in the fur. Make sure you run your hands over the animal’s body to feel for any bumps. Check around the animal’s ears, chest, underbelly, legs, feet, tail and especially between the toes. Use a brush to help facilitate checks.
To decrease exposure to tick-borne diseases, avoid walking your pets through the woods or tall grasses and a tick check should always be performed before re-entering the home.
Protecting your pet is also about protecting your family. Humans have often been bitten by ticks that were originally crawling on their pets.