Yes, Ticks Can Affect Pets. What You Need to Know

According to the Center for Disease Control, mosquito, flea and tick-borne illnesses have tripled in the U.S. in recent years. Michigan in particular has seen a dramatic increase in the amount of ticks carrying Lyme disease in the past ten years. This is a cause for concern not just for humans, but for our beloved pets too. Since we can’t always prevent Fido from running through the woods, it’s important to understand what to do if your furry friend gets bit – especially since ticks can make their way from Fido to you.

What are ticks?

Ticks are very small external parasites that attach themselves to the skin of humans and animals upon contact.

How do I find ticks on my pet?

You should always thoroughly check your pet’s body for ticks after spending time outdoors in grassy or wooded areas. Ticks are visible to the naked eye, but they are small, at about the size of a sesame seed. Start by checking the skin for bumps or scabs – ticks are often found near the neck, ears, eyes, tail and even paws. Other things to keep an eye out for:

  • Dark specks in the fur – flea droppings
  • White specks in the fur – flea eggs
  • Excessive scratching, liking or shaking
  • Hot spots on skin

What are other signs my pet has been bitten?

Tick bites can be accompanied by other symptoms, such as loss of appetite, anemia, fever, swollen lymph nodes, tick paralysis and joint swelling, according to WebMD. Though these symptoms are more serious, they usually stem from the contraction of tick-borne infections or diseases.

What harm can a tick cause?

Ticks can carry Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, babesiosis, tularemia, ehrlichiosis or tick-borne relapsing fever, which can all affect animals. For a disease to transmit, ticks typically need to be attached to the host for about 36 to 48 hours – that’s why early detection and removal is so important! The risk of infection often depends on what region the tick is located on an animal.

Removal, treatment and prevention

It is important to remove ticks as soon as they discovered. Take precaution during the removal process by cleaning the area with rubbing alcohol and wearing gloves, as contact with the tick’s blood could pass an infection or disease to your pet or even you. Then, use tweezers to extract the tick, grabbing as close to the skin as possible and pulling straight up. Do not dispose of the tick, place it in an air tight container. Make an appointment with your vet to have your pet evaluated as soon as possible – they can also test the tick’s blood for infection and disease.

Luckily, there is a vaccine available for dogs to protect against Lyme disease in high-risk areas. Similarly, various preventative products exist to help repel ticks from your pet, like collars and shampoos. Other products and prescriptions are available to help kills ticks and treat your pet once bitten.

Prevention and awareness are key to keeping your furry friend (and you!) safe from harmful ticks and tick-borne diseases.

Photo Credit: Leah Kelly

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