Living in the woods definitely has its benefits. You get to enjoy the feeling of being in nature day in and day out, and your dog gets to roam among the shaded trees and babbling streams. But while the woods are beautiful, they also harbor a very small, yet powerful threat: ticks. Black-legged deer ticks, in particular, pose a specific threat to your dog because they can spread Lyme disease.
Lyme disease is an infection caused by a species of bacteria known as Borellia burgdorferi. This species is unique in that it shares many properties of viruses and is difficult (though possible) to treat with antibiotics. Lyme disease causes body-wide symptoms, like aches, lethargy, and flu-like symptoms, and even after it is treated, it can come back and cause a relapse. Many dogs are infected each year, but if you take these steps, you can protect your dog.
Get your dog vaccinated.
There is a Lyme disease vaccine for dogs. It's not one of the routine vaccines that vets give in most cases because not all dogs need it -- but since you live in the wood where ticks are common, the vaccine is certainly essential for your dog. Your dog will need an initial vaccine plus a booster shot 2 - 4 weeks later. Then your dog will then need annual boosters, which your vet can administer during their regular checkups.
The Lyme disease vaccine will greatly reduce your dog's chances of contracting this illness if he or she is bitten by a tick. Still, since no vaccine is 100% effective, it's important to take the other precautions discussed in this article as well.
Keep your dog well groomed.
Ticks latch on to their hosts, using their blood as a meal. In general, they need to be attached for at least 36 hours before they can spread Lyme disease to the host. So if your dog gets bitten by a tick and you remove that tick promptly, you can likely prevent an infection. If your dog has long hair, it will be a lot easier to check him or her for ticks if you keep the hair trimmed and brushed out. So make regular appointment with your groomer, and brush your dog every day. As you brush, run your fingers along your dog's skin to check for ticks.
Know how to remove ticks properly.
There are a lot of home remedies floating around when it comes to tick removal. You may have heard that you should burn the tick with a match or even douse it with peppermint oil. The problem with these remedies is that they can cause the tick to spit out blood or leak blood as it dies. The blood then goes back into your body, and the Lyme disease bacteria go with it.
The proper way to remove a tick from your dog without increasing the risk of infection is to grasp it with tweezers. Then, pull away from your dog's body using a firm, steady pressure. Do not twist the tweezers, as this can cause the tick's mouthparts to break off and remain attached to the skin. Flush the tick down the toilet, and then apply some antiseptic ointment to the tick bite. Wash your hands thoroughly with iodine scrub or rubbing alcohol after each tick removal.
Living in the woods does put your dog at an increased risk of Lyme disease. However, if you have your dog vaccinated, get booster shots annually, keep him or her well groomed, and remove ticks promptly, everything should be okay. Talk to your vet to learn more about preventing Lyme disease in dogs and other important vaccinations, or visit websites like http://www.lansdaleveterinarian.com/ for information.