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The Ruff Report: Stop ticks from dogging - or even killing - your pet

Besides sprouting flowers and mild temperatures, spring also ushers in ticks that carry Lyme disease, and pet parents are being reminded about the importance of taking precautions to keep their dogs and cats safe from the potentially killer bacterial infection.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is urging pet parents to take actions now to prevent their companions from being bitten by the insects and infected by Lyme.

It recommends using topical treatments and prescription tick-control collars available from a veterinarian to keep the insects off their pets.

"Prescription tick-preventive collars obtained through veterinarians can be very useful aids in preventing infestation,” Dr. Louise Murray, director of medicine for the ASPCA’s Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital, states in a media release. “Consumers should not confuse these with over-the-counter flea collars, which are often ineffective."

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Lyme vaccines are available for dogs, the ASPCA says, and owners should consult with a veterinarian about whether a vaccination is appropriate for a pet's lifestyle and geographic location.

Lyme disease can affect individual pets differently, so pet parents must pay careful attention to changes in a dog's or cat's disposition for any warning signs, Dr. Murray said.

"Early detection of Lyme disease in pets helps ensure prompt and successful treatment,” she said. "It can also prevent potential organ damage resulting from unrecognized infection."

Dogs with Lyme disease may experience leg stiffness and limping, a high fever (103 to 105F), lethargy, loss of appetite, kidney damage or failure (which could cause vomiting, thirst or general malaise) or, more rarely, heart disorders. Neurological symptoms include aggression, overeating or seizures.

Cats may show loss of appetite, fatigue, lameness, eye damage or unusual breathing. While it is still unclear to what degree cats are at risk of becoming sick from Lyme disease, it is important to protect them from flea and tick infestation, since both parasites can infect cats with a number of life-threatening illnesses.

A dog or cat can be infected with the Lyme bacteria and show no obvious symptoms, so prevention is critical because the disease can be life-threatening if left untreated.

The ASPCA offer these suggestions to pet parents:
  • Perform a daily tick check of your pet. When a tick attaches to an animal, it takes time before the infection is passed. If the tick is spotted early, it can be removed before the disease spreads.
  • If you spot a tick, don’t panic. Use fine-point tweezers to grab the tick and gently pull upward until the tick detaches. Do not use your bare hands. Wash your hands carefully and store the tick in an airtight container (zip-lock bag, pill bottle, etc.) to have it tested by your veterinarian right away.
  • Have your pet examined as soon as possible if you notice any symptoms. The earlier Lyme disease is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat.
Ticks are most prevalent in the spring and fewer numbers are around in the dry, summer months. But they re-emerge in larger numbers in autumn, when the weather is cooler and wetter. For the most part, the tick season goes on in colder climates until winter settles in. In warmer climates, ticks can be a year-round problem.

The four kinds of ticks commonly found in the mainland United States are:
  • Deer tick, which may carry Lyme disease. It has been found in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma,Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin. 
  • Brown dog tick, which may carry infectious diseases known as canine ehrlichiosis and babesiosis. It has been found in all states.
  • Lone star tick, which may carry Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tick paralysis and tularemia. It has been found in Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.
More reports about dogs and health:

  • American dog tick, which may carry Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia. It has been found in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

The Ruff Report is a column that appears on, a blog written by Joseph A. Reppucci, a retired editor from The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, Massachusetts. Mr. Reppucci worked as a reporter and editor on major daily newspapers in the Boston area for more than 30 years. He is the author of the book, The Hunt of Her Life, a heartwarming story about his once-in-a-lifetime rescue dog. Find it on


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