pet parenting

At First Bite

Davi's tips for protecting your family from Lyme disease


Dear Davi,

After a recent hike, my dog came home covered in ticks. What can you tell me about ticks and the risk factors for Lyme disease?



There is almost a universal agreement among dogs that ticks are gross. Not only do they give us the heebie-jeebies, these bloodsuckers spread diseases. Worry, though, is unnecessary, since prevention is possible. Here's a simple guide to all things tick:

Ticks Come in Small, Medium And Large. Ticks can range in size from as large as an apple seed to as small as the period at the end of this sentence. Just never mistake nipples or warts for ticks-it happens.

Ticks Crawl Up. Ticks live on the ground no matter the locale, but are well-equipped to climb. They typically crawl up from grass blades onto a host and migrate upward, which is why the head, neck and ears are prime places to hide, but ticks can can be found stuck anywhere, even in the groin area-awkward.

Ticks are a Year-Round Threat. Cold and snowy? No big deal. Ticks can survive in snow as well as the sun. If the temperature is 40 degrees or higher, even for just a few hours, ticks are wide-awake and hungry, looking for a meal. That makes stopping tick control medication during winter months a risky thing to do. Constant protection is important.

Lyme Disease is Everywhere. Look no further than global warming for causing an uptick in diagnoses of Lyme disease in dogs-and people. The ticks that transmit the disease are spreading rapidly across our country and can be found on every continent, except Antarctica.

Lyme Disease can be Fatal. Though it doesn't usually occur in dogs, Lyme disease can cause kidney failure and death in severe cases. The most common sign of Lyme disease in dogs is arthritis, which causes sudden lameness, pain and sometimes swelling in one or more joints. Other symptoms include fever, reduced appetite and sluggishness.

Lyme Disease Transmission Happens Quickly. Ticks are by far the most common disease vector in the United States. Dogs can contract Lyme disease when they have prolonged contact with an infected tick. In most cases, it takes 12 to 36 hours for the feeding tick to transmit the bacteria that causes the disease.

Tick-Borne Disease Is Preventable. There's only one way to become infected with the disease, and that's from a tick bite. Taking steps to protect your dog with year-round preventive medication and regular tick checks, especially if you spend time outdoors, will drastically reduce the risk of developing Lyme disease. Remember, one bite is all it takes to make your dog sick, so prevention is your best bet.

Lyme Disease Is Generally Easy to Treat. The odds of getting Lyme disease from a tick bite are rather low. Even in tick-ridden areas, fewer than 5 percent of bites result in an infection. But those that do are easy to deal with. All the symptoms literally melt away with antibiotics, if treated in time.

While it's easy to get into a full-fledged panic over seeing a tick on your dog, keep it in perspective: Being aware of the problem and prepared to protect your pooch are key to making sure your pup stays Lyme-free.


Davi has news for ticks: This dachshund bites back!

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