Pet 411: Protecting your dog from ticks

There are many delightful things about hanging out with your pet in the summertime, from trips to the dog beach to romps in the back yard.  

One not so delightful aspect? An increased number of ticks and other pests that can cause discomfort or disease to your pet.

That’s certainly the case for one of our readers, who recently moved from Virginia to Chicago and is experiencing a “tick explosion.” She said she’s constantly finding ticks on herself and her family members — especially their dog, Lou.  She gives Lou Nexgard, a flea and tick preventative, which seems to be working. Her question is what she should do if she finds a live tick on her pup – pull it out herself and risk leaving part of the tick inside her dog, or leave it and trust the Nexgard will kill it?

It’s a good question, and I want to commend her for getting Lou on a good tick preventative. I’ll get into the reasons why that’s so important in a minute. To answer her question, you should always remove a tick if you see one on your pet. If you have doubts you were able to remove the entire thing, get to your veterinarian who can help get it out. If a tick is attached to a pet’s skin for less than 24 hours, the chances of disease being transmitted are much smaller.

That’s why a good tick preventative is so necessary. As you probably know, ticks can carry some dangerous diseases, including Lyme disease, Erlichiosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. So if you live in an area that is prone to ticks, it’s imperative that you look and feel for ticks on your dog daily if they go outside. And while we might see an increase in the warmer months, ticks are really a year-round concern. So don’t let your guard down just because the weather is a little cooler.

Here are some other things to keep in mind to keep your pet safe from ticks:

  • Talk to your family veterinarian about tick preventatives that can be applied topically or taken orally
  • Vaccines against Lyme disease are available. Discuss this option also with your family veterinarian to see if it is appropriate for your area.
  • Lameness, lethargy, fever, swollen joints, vomiting and diarrhea are all signs of tick borne diseases such as Erlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease. If your dog begins exhibiting any of these symptoms, get to a veterinarian as soon as possible.
  • Your veterinarian will need to order bloodwork in order to make a diagnosis. Treatment is typically antibiotics such as Doxycycline.
  • If not caught quickly, chronic problems can result, such as arthritis and kidney disease.
  • If a tick bites an infected dog and then bites a person, that tick born disease can also be transmitted to people. This is another reason to ensure your pets are free from ticks and the diseases they can spread.

I hope this helps our reader in Chicago and her dog, Lou.  Enjoy the rest of your summer and stay safe!

Have a question about your pet that you’d like answered? Write to Dr. Cathy Meeks at She’d love to hear from you, and your letter may be picked for an upcoming Pet 411 column.