A tick sitting in some pet fur

Residents of south shore communities are, unfortunately, very familiar with ticks and their associated diseases. While not every tick bite results in illness, these parasites undoubtedly pose serious threats to family pets. With year-round parasite prevention medication, you can ensure that your cat or dog is protected from Lyme disease. However, it’s equally important to prevent Lyme disease in pets by minimizing exposure and checking them every day for the presence of ticks.

Parasite Prevention Medication

Parasites thrive in warmer climates throughout the year, and they enter a state of dormancy when temperatures fall below freezing. With fluctuating temperature extremes, it’s not considered safe to stop a pet’s parasite prevention in the “off” season. Indeed, parasites like ticks don’t ever take a break, especially with seasonal inconsistencies.

A Way to Look Out

The most common ticks in Massachusetts are black-legged (deer) ticks and dog ticks. When they attach themselves to their prey, it can take up to a couple of days for bacteria to transfer into the bloodstream. It’s imperative to check every single day for ticks in order to reduce the odds of disease transmission from the tick to your pet.

Natural Habitat

In peak season, ticks wait for their prey to walk by. They can sense an approaching victim and position themselves to latch on. Shady, damp, overgrown areas, tall grass, woodpiles, and more are ideal hideouts for ticks. As such, we recommend trimming these areas back on your property and limiting your pet’s access to wooded areas. 

Lyme Disease in Pets

Other parasitic threats form ticks include anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia, and Bartonella that can be passed to humans. 

Lyme disease in pets is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. Carried in the tick’s digestive system, this bacteria can enter a victim’s bloodstream in 1-2 days. Symptoms may not be immediately obvious, but Lyme disease in pets can cause:

  • Fever
  • Stiffness
  • Lethargy
  • Swollen joints and lymph nodes
  • Lameness that shifts from limb to limb
  • Inappetance

Please contact us if you notice any of the above symptoms, or you have found a tick on your pet.

What to Do

We may run various diagnostic tests to ascertain Lyme disease in pets. Prescription antibiotics may be required to battle any infection. If Lyme disease in pets is left untreated, major illness can occur, such as irreversible damage to the kidneys. 

A Close Look

Every day, we recommend inspecting your pet’s paws, legs, underarms, hips, tail, neck, ears, and the belly for the possible presence of ticks. Take extra care to maintain routine grooming

If you find a tick, it’s crucial to remove it the right way:

  • Put latex gloves on to protect yourself
  • Using a pair of fine-point tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the head as possible, or the surface of your pet’s body.
  • Using a steady outward motion, pull the tick out slowly, being careful not to twist or angle the tick’s body away from the head. 
  • Gently disinfect the area and wash your hands.
  • You can dispose of the tick by drowning it in alcohol or burning it. You can also keep it in a sealed baggie in case you want us to test it for the Lyme bacteria. 
  • Monitor the site of the bite closely over the next few days to weeks. A rash or other unusual skin condition should be looked at. 

Lyme disease in pets can be also be prevented with a vaccination. If your pet’s lifestyle includes lots of hiking and camping, we’d be happy to discuss this with you. 

Tick “season” or not, our staff at Old Derby Animal Hospital are always here for you. Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns.