As populations of ticks become larger in most areas of the United States and have even moved into areas of Canada where they were not found even a few years ago, the number of cases of Lyme disease in dogs is also on the rise.
There are some very practical and effective ways to help your pet avoid tick bites. Keep in mind; it is the deer tick that is the carrier of Lyme disease, or more correctly, the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. Keeping all ticks off your pet is always the best solution, and this typically requires several different strategies.
Avoid Tick Infested Locations
Ticks prefer to live in areas where there is long grass and shorter, bushy types of vegetation. This includes wild plants and shrubs as well as ornamental shrubs in your landscaping. Ticks also tend to stay off of pathways and sidewalks but can be found along the edges of these walkways. Keep your yard mowed and all long grasses and shrubs trimmed back. Remove any leaf litter or areas of dead grass or piles of plant debris from the area.
When walking your pet in areas of long grass or forested areas, keep them on the leash and in the heavily trafficked areas.
Check Your Dog After Each Outing
If you live in an area where ticks are a problem, check your dog every evening to determine if any ticks are on the body. While ticks can be found anywhere, they are most commonly found in the hot, moist areas of the dog’s body. Run your fingers through the hair and over the skin in and around the ears, look around the eyes and under the jaw and throat area, under the front legs in the “armpit” area, as well as in the groin. Around the top and sides of the tail are other areas to check.
Always check between the toes on all four feet. Small ticks are easy to miss, so take your time and do a complete check, removing any ticks immediately with a tick removal tool or tweezers. This should be done by grasping the tick at the surface and pulling up with gentle by steady pressure. Do not twist or wiggle the tick.
In areas where ticks are a problem, or if you are traveling to places where ticks are common, use a preventative tick treatment. There are oral treatment tablets and pills that are effective, as are topical applications and prescription types of tick collars, which also control fleas.
There are Lyme disease vaccines for dogs, but they should only be used if the dog has not been previously exposed to the disease. Most vets recommend the vaccine used in conjunction with other treatment methods, including the topical preventative applications.