I took my year-and-a-half-old female golden retriever to a new vet to get her spayed. The vet suggested that my dog also receive a vaccine for Lyme disease. She asked me if my dog ever had ticks, and when I replied that she had already gotten ticks on her this season, the vet said that it was even more important that she be properly vaccinated. Then I showed her some scabs on my dog where I had removed some of the ticks. That’s really why I am writing. How should one remove a tick from a dog? Is there a right way to do so? Ultimately, the vet gave her all of her shots, including the first vaccine for Lyme. Her blood was tested and luckily she had no tick-transmitted diseases. I set her up to get spayed in a few weeks.
Perhaps the veterinarian informed you that it would have been wiser to spay your dog when she was around 6 months old and before her first heat cycle. While spaying your dog now is still a wise choice, once a dog has her first heat, the chance of breast cancer later in life rises exponentially. That does not mean your dog will ever develop a problem, but it’s preferable to spay them at a younger age.
Like many veterinarians, I ascribe to the idea that one should vaccinate any animal judiciously based on risk of exposure. Since your dog regularly seems to have ticks, vaccinating for Lyme is probably warranted, especially if you live in New England. If the Lyme vaccine your dog received was her first, she will likely need a booster in three to four weeks as part of the initial vaccine series and then should have an annual booster.
How to remove a tick? Do not put something on the tick because the tick can react and actually deposit more of its saliva into the dog, increasing the potential of infection for Lyme. Using tweezers, grip the parasite as close to the skin of the dog as possible and pull the tick straight out without twisting. Be firm and quick in the motion because, otherwise, you might remove most of the tick but leave the head still attached to the dog’s skin, which can result in a scab and possibly a small infection. Once removed, crush the tick before disposing of it. If you use your fingers instead of tweezers, follow the same protocol and then wash your hands. You also should use a good flea and tick preventative product on your dog. I am sure your new veterinarian can advise you on a good choice.
Story re-posted from Boston Herald. Written by Dr. John De Jong.