Check your dogs for ticks – they can get Lyme disease, too

WALTHAM, Mass. – It’s the height of tick season, which means people should take extra care to prevent the spread of Lyme disease – not just to people, but also to their dogs.

Close up female rhipicephalus sanguineus on recycle paper background

Lyme disease, as well as another tick-borne ailment called anaplasmosis, can be just as harmful to dogs as to humans. Symptoms can include fever, joint pain, lethargy, loss of appetite, neurologic disorders and difficulty walking. Lyme disease may also cause kidney damage and can be fatal if left untreated.

Dr. Jamie Resnick, a senior emergency clinician for BluePearl Veterinary Partners, urged dog owners to be especially watchful if their pets become feverish or start to limp, especially if they limp on different legs at different times. A dog with those symptoms should be taken to the family veterinarian or to an emergency veterinarian.

“Any dog who has fever and is limping should be evaluated,”  Resnick said.

Resnick said one of the best things dog owners can do is to give their dogs anti-tick medicine, not just in the summer but year-round. The medicines are available over the counter and from veterinarians.

It’s probably not realistic to keep dogs inside throughout tick season. “Dogs will be dogs, they love hiking, they love the woods,” Resnick said. So after dogs go outside, make sure to check them carefully for ticks.

Here are some more tips for making sure dogs are protected:

  • Talk with your family veterinarian about vaccinating your pet against Lyme disease.
  • Talk with your veterinarian about the best way to prevent fleas and ticks from latching on to your pet.closeup of red  ticks on white dog fur ; selective focus at  adult  tick
  • Your veterinarian may suggest an oral medication so that your pet is simply given a pill once a month. Or the vet may encourage spot-on medications, medicated shampoos, powders or tick collars.
  • Consider having your yard and home treated for ticks.
  • Inspect your dogs for ticks if they have been outside near wooded areas.
  • If you find a tick, take tweezers and remove the tick as close to the body of the pet as possible, trying to get the head of the tick out.
  • Watch your pet carefully over time and look out for any changes in behavior.
  • If your pet is not acting right, take him or her to your veterinarian as soon as possible.