Meet the Black-Legged Tick
Or better yet, don’t meet the black-legged tick! This is the pest that spreads Borrelia burgdorferi, the Lyme disease bacterium, in North Carolina (as well as the northeast, mid-Atlantic, and north-central states). Formally known as the deer tick, they are active when the temperature is above freezing.
The ticks carry the bacterium, which is introduced to the body through a bite. When the bacteria is in the bloodstream, it can travel to different locations (e.g. organs, joints). In dogs, this can cause arthritis symptoms, specifically stiff and swollen joints. You’ll notice your pooch has difficulty walking or appears to be in pain or discomfort.
He may also experience fever, loss of appetite, and a reduction in energy.
Should You Be Worried?
You should certainly be prepared. The good news is that only 5% of dogs that are positive for Lyme disease show clinical symptoms. That means, 95% of the time, dogs are not going to become sick.
We do worry about the risk of arthritis-type symptoms, and there is a possibility that the infection will spread into the kidneys. This, however, is not at all common. Regardless, if your dog tests positive, we will conduct urine testing to monitor his health. We will also give him a course of antibiotics and address any specific symptoms with the most effective treatments.
Protecting Your Dog from Ticks
Even though it is relatively uncommon for dogs to become sick after being bit by a black-legged tick, there has been an increase in incidents of Lyme disease in North Carolina. You can take steps to reduce the risk and keep your furry friend as healthy as possible.
Check Your Dog for Ticks. Ticks cannot fly; they wait on leaves or tips of grass and other vegetation and crawl onto your dog. This is why it is especially important to check your dog after you’ve gone outside - even in your own backyard. Look between the feet and toes, on his snout, around the eyes and ears, in the groin area, and under the tail.
If you see a tick, remove it quickly. Once a tick has been attached for 24-48 hours, it can transmit Lyme disease. If you remove it before then, you can reduce the likelihood that the bacteria will be introduced to his system.
When you spot a tick, part the hair around it with your fingers. Using a pair of tweezers, get as close to the skin as possible and position the tweezers around the tick.
Pull gently up - do not twist or jerk. After the tick lets you pull it up from the skin, clean the area with soap and water or rubbing alcohol. Wash your hands thoroughly as well. Use alcohol to kill the tick or flush it in the toilet. Do not just throw it away; they’ll crawl back out of the trash!
Use a vet-approved flea and tick prevention solution. Ask us about the most effective options for your pet. The best cure is prevention!
While you shouldn’t let ticks stop you from enjoying the great outdoors with your dog, you should take precautions to ensure he stays as safe as possible. Regular tick checks, preventative medicine, and prompt action if you do spot a tick is essential. If you have any questions or need to have your pup looked over before the spring season heats up, contact the professionals at Avery Creek Pet Hospital. We’re here to help!