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Ask AKC: Tackling Ticks

American Kennel Club, Inc. (c) 2011

Dear Lisa: My 3-year-old Beagle came down with some weird unrelated symptoms. He was not as playful as usual and became somewhat lethargic, drinking more water than usual, peeing on the carpet in the mornings, sporadically limping in the right hind leg, and eventually having seizures. I begged my regular vet to test for Lyme disease, since my dog's breeder suggested it might be Lyme, but was not satisfied until I went to another vet who did test and diagnosed for Lyme disease. How did a city dog get a country disease? --Ticked Off in Times Square
During the height of tick season, even if you visit the country only once, your pet could pick up a tick that you don't see, which could cause Lyme Disease. The real threat comes from the bacteria transmitted from a biting tick to your dog. Right now, local veterinarians are finding dogs infected with Lyme and Ehrlichiosis, another tick-borne illness.

Transmission
The longer the tick is attached and biting, the greater the risk of transmitting the bacteria, or organism in the case of Ehrlichia, which causes disease. Fortunately, not all ticks carry bacteria so not every bite results in disease. But be on the lookout for early symptoms such as leg limping, swelling of the lymph nodes, especially near the lameness and a temperature of 103 or above. If left untreated, dogs can suffer kidney and bone marrow failure, chronic bouts of symptoms brought on by stress and even death.

Removal
If you do find a tick on your canine companion opt for immediate removal. Simply grab the tick body as close to the dog's skin as possible and gently pull straight out. Using Vaseline, alcohol or burning the tick is pointless. If you should leave the tick head in the skin along with those nasty barbed-teeth, fear not. The dog's immune system will fight back and form a small bump of granulation tissue around the tick mouth parts to protect it from infecting the rest of the dog. If you suspect your dog has Lyme, even if you didn't see a tick, insist upon proper testing by your veterinarian. It could save your dog's life.

 

If you have a question, send it to Lisa at lxp@akc.org and she may select it for a future column. Due to the high volume of questions she cannot offer individual responses.