The right tactics for a tick attack

The right tactics for a tick attack

You’ve found a tick on your dog’s skin? Don’t panic.

June 26, 2023

The promise of spring reawakens our urge to hit the hiking trails with our faithful 4-legged companions. Unfortunately, these outings can conclude with the discovery of a tick securely latched onto your dog’s skin.

While these tiny insects, measuring just a few millimeters, may seem inoffensive, they can carry a variety of bacteria responsible for transmitting illnesses such as Lyme disease. Is your dog at risk? How do you remove a tick? Read on for advice on how to protect your dog from the risks associated with this parasite.

The risk of infection
Being bitten by a tick does not necessarily mean that your dog will contract Lyme disease. There are different types of ticks and only Ixodes scapularis can transmit Lyme disease. What’s more, only 5-10% of dogs will develop clinical signs of the disease which will progress within 2 to 6 months of infection. In animals, the disease can have a more severe “acute” form which can include a range of symptoms (such as fever, arthritis, lameness, fatigue, vomiting, loss of appetite and swelling of the lymph nodes) or a “chronic” form (with the same symptoms, as well as cardiovascular complications, meningitis, renal failure and disorders of the nervous system). Ticks can also carry and spread other diseases, including ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis and rickettsiosis.

If you’re scared that your animal has been infected by a tick, your veterinarian can perform a test 6 weeks after the date of the potential infection to determine whether this is the case and if the bacteria has spread within your pet. Depending on these test results, the presence of clinical signs and a physical examination, your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotic treatment and other support for your animal.

How to remove a tick
You’ve found a tick on your animal? It’s important to act fast as there is a 48-hour window of opportunity during which the parasite does not infect its host. The first step consists of removing the parasite from your pet—ideally within 24-36 hours of the initial bite. To extract the tick, take your dog to a calm, quiet location and get help to hold your pet. Then part your dog’s fur so that you can see the tick clearly. Put on protective gloves to prevent getting contaminated. Using a specialized tick remover or eye-brow tweezers, remove the tick by clasping the tick’s head (not its abdomen). Pull slowly, at a perpendicular angle so that you remove the tick’s head and legs from your animal. Be certain to remove all traces of the parasite. Congratulations! The worst is over.

Place the tick in a sealed jar and check your dog from head to toe for other ticks. Disinfect the wound with soap and water and write down the exact location on your dog’s body of the bite and the date. Consult your veterinarian for next steps.

How to identify a tick
The faculty of veterinary medicine at the Université de Montréal provides diagnostic testing to identify your tick and, using a molecular test, find out if it was carrying Lyme disease. Other resources are available online, including Quebec’s National Institute of Public Health and Etick which allows you to submit photos for identification.

How to prevent disease
Prevention is by far the best way to steer clear of Lyme disease. Carefully examine your dog after each outing and administer an oral or subcutaneous antiparasitic medication, which will kill a tick within 24 hours and prevent disease transmission. To stack the cards in your favour, speak to your veterinarian about vaccinating your dog for Lyme disease.

There’s nothing as enjoyable as a long walk in the wilds with your dog. And, even though ticks are now found in all regions across Canada, with preparation and knowledge you’ll be able to minimize the risk of ticks and make the most of the great outdoors!

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