Tick Talk: Keep Your Dog Safe from Tick-Borne Disease

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Use tick preventatives on your dog, including topical medications or veterinarian-supplied tick collars. Be aware that tick preventatives do not prevent disease transmission: they reduce risk by reducing the tick burden in the dog’s environment. Dogs that spend time outdoors should be checked daily for ticks. Pay close attention to the head, ears, shoulders and upper leg areas.
 
Remove ticks immediately upon discovery, using tweezers to safely pull the tick from the dog’s skin. Avoid squeezing the tick to prevent transfer of the tick’s bodily fluids. Never spray human tick repellent on your dog as these chemicals may be toxic if ingested. Talk to your veterinarian about annual testing for tick-borne disease. Testing is fast, effective and can save costly veterinary bills if the disease is not caught in its early stages.
 
If your dog displays symptoms of tick-borne disease, they may test negative at first. This is because most tests measure for the presence of antibodies against the pathogen, and antibodies take time to reach measurable levels in the blood. For that reason, your veterinarian may test twice using an initial “acute” sample followed by a “convalescent” sample two weeks later. Alternately, discuss the use of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) diagnostic testing for the pathogens themselves.