Hi Dr. Barchas,
I like to go hiking with my dog Simba, and sometimes I find ticks embedded in him after hikes. There are deer in the area where I hike, but Simba has had the vaccine for Lyme disease. Do I need to worry about the ticks?
Traverse City, MI
Yes. Ticks are bad for Simba.
Lyme disease is spread by ticks, and it receives a great deal of media attention. Although the ticks that carry Lyme disease are called deer ticks, the presence of deer has little to do with the prevalence of the disease. In fact, it is a type of mouse that spreads the disease. Lyme disease causes vague symptoms in dogs. These include limping, fever, swollen lymph nodes, and lethargy. It is most common in the northeastern United States, but also exists in the upper Midwest (including Michigan) and in the west.
A vaccine for Lyme disease is available for dogs. However, even if a dog has been vaccinated, tick infestation may adversely affect his health. For one thing, no vaccine is perfect. For another, ticks carry a large number of diseases besides Lyme. These include such frightening syndromes as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, Anaplasmosis, Cytauxzoonosis, Hepatozoonosis, and tick paralysis. Ticks are veritable hotbeds of disease. Only fleas and mosquitoes outrank them on the list of vile bloodsucking parasites that deserve no mercy.
The best way to protect Simba from these diseases is to prevent tick infestation. Keeping him out of areas that harbor ticks will help, but if you like to hike with your dog you will need to apply a product that prevents tick infestation. There are several products that can be used, including Frontline, K9 Advantix, and the Preventic collar. Of these, I prefer Frontline, because it is safe and effective and will not harm cats. K9 Advantix and the Preventic collar must not be used on cats, and in my opinion they are less elegant products.