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Vets urge: Check dogs for ticks to prevent Lyme disease


As April is Prevent Lyme Disease in Dogs Month, Oregon veterinarians encourage dog owners to be aware of Lyme disease, a tick-borne disease that can affect both canines and humans.

In Oregon, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease can be transmitted by the bite of a small brown-black tick, Ixodes pacificus, also known as the Western Black-Legged tick. Adult Western Black-Legged ticks are about 2/3 the size of the common wood tick, which hikers and campers often find on their clothing while in wooded or brushy areas.

In 2014, there were 125 reported cases of Lyme disease in Oregon dogs. The Companion Animal Parasite Council’s interactive map shows Lyme disease activity in Oregon dogs, with 22 cases reported so far in 2015: As expected, it is more common in locations where there are woods that host the Western Black-Legged tick.

An infected tick must be attached to a dog or human for more than 24 hours to spread Lyme disease.

If you find a tick on your dog, it may be preferable to have your veterinarian remove the tick because identification of the tick species requires an undamaged specimen. The tick’s head and mouthparts may become a source of inflammation and infection if they remain buried in your dog’s skin. If you decide to remove the tick yourself:

Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
Pull upward with steady, even pressure to ease out the entire tick including the tick’s mouthparts. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin.
Be sure to wash the bite area and your hands.
Please seek the advice of your veterinarian if you were unsuccessful in removing the entire tick.

Symptoms of Lyme disease

In addition to affecting the heart, brain, and kidneys, outward signs of the disease in your dog may include one or more of the following:

A red skin rash at the site of the bite Stiff, painful gait or lameness Fever Reluctance to move

If your dog exhibits these symptoms, please consult your veterinarian.

Protect your dog from Lyme disease

Prevent tick bites by using a flea and tick preventive medication.
Remove ticks from your dog as soon as possible.
Always check yourself and your pets for ticksafter spending time in tall grass, wooded, or brushy areas, especially in the spring and summer.
Brush your dog after such outings, taking care to check skin folds and tick hiding areas such as armpits, groin, ears, and under collars.

“Several products are available to repel or kill ticks. Preventive products labeled for tick control should be used according to their instructions prior to taking your dog into potentially tick-infested areas. Your veterinarian can help you to choose a product that is best for your situation, and based on your dog’s risk factors,” says Dr. Doug McInnis, a small animal veterinarian at West Ridge Animal Clinic in Klamath Falls, an area with tick and Lyme disease activity.

A vaccine is also available as a preventive tool. If you are interested in vaccinating your dog against Lyme disease, please consult your veterinarian.

The Oregon Veterinary Medical Association is a nonprofit organization of veterinarians who are dedicated to helping people give their animals a high quality of life. For more pet health care tips, visit or talk to your veterinarian.

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