Monthly Doctor’s Blog: Common Questions Around Ticks!

Every month, the doctors of AtlasVet write a blog post to help pet owners with common questions

This month, Dr. Christina Klare answers questions about Ticks!

What do I do if I find a tick on my pet?

If you find an unattached tick on your pet, no disease transmission can occur, so there is no need to worry about disease spread to your pet. Just carefully destroy and dispose of the tick.

If you find an attached tick, quick removal is important. The only recommended removal option is to grab with tweezers as close to the site of attachment as possible and pull straight back. Twisting is not recommended. If you feel uncomfortable doing this at home, you can call AtlasVet to schedule a technician appointment for tick removal, but the longer the delay in removal, the higher the risk of disease transmission.  There are many online resources and videos for help as well.

If I remove a tick, should I get it tested for diseases?

While there are services that can test ticks for certain diseases, just because a tick has a certain disease, does not mean your pet will develop that disease. DC Department of Health currently offers tick identification services (but not disease testing for ticks) and identifying the tick type still does not guarantee a pet will develop disease.

If my pet has/had a tick, do they need immediate treatment?

Prophylactic treatment is not recommended for tick bites or tick exposure.

There is a rash on the skin after a tick bite; does this mean my dog definitely has Lyme disease?

The “target” or “bull’s eye” lesion which is so commonly known as a concerning sign when humans get a tick bite, is very unlikely to occur in dogs or cats. Most likely this is a general rash secondary to the tick bite and may or may not require medication to treat, but it is not a guaranteed sign of Lyme disease in pets.

Should I test my pet for tick borne diseases, like Lyme, after they have a tick bite?

Because there are numerous types of diseases spread by ticks, different types of tests, and different time periods before a positive result would occur, screening for disease after a tick bite is not generally recommended. However, if a pet develops any symptoms days or weeks after a tick bite (lethargy, limping, fever, decreased appetite) testing and/or treatment may be recommended.

Testing for antibodies to Lyme disease specifically can be performed at least 6-8 weeks after known tick exposure. If positive, a screening urine sample may be recommended next. Disease and symptoms from Lyme exposure is very uncommon in dogs and not recognized at this time in cats.

What is the best way to prevent tick borne diseases?

Perform routine tick checks on your pets and remove them as soon as possible. Using a tick prevention that contains isoxazoline products (Nexgard, Simparica Trio, Bravecto, Credelio, Revolution Plus for Cats) is the most effective way to kill ticks quickly after they attach (in about 8 hours). Products like Frontline (fipronil) actually take about 24 hours to kill a tick after attachment.