I found a dog tick on my ankle. Do they cause Lyme disease?

Not Lyme, thankfully, but dog ticks can give you Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which can be just as serious, and even fatal. Despite the name, this infection happens throughout the country, though most cases occur in five states: North Carolina, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee and Missouri. Symptoms include fever, headache, vomiting and a red, spotty rash.

There are several species of ticks, each one associated with different diseases. For example, lone star ticks are more common in the Southeast and South Central U.S. and can cause ehrlichiosis, which leads to head and muscle aches, while deer ticks (the kind that transmit Lyme) are mainly in the Northeast.

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Ick, I know. But keep in mind that a bite doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get an infection. Not every tick is diseased, and removing the bug within 24 hours can reduce the likelihood of illness. Also, you don’t have to run to the doctor right away.

First remove the tick and snap a picture of it. Then, over the next few weeks, keep a close eye out for symptoms, either a red bullseye rash (suggesting Lyme disease) or a fever (an indication of many tick-borne illnesses). If you do develop symptoms, take the photo of the tick with you to the doctor. Knowing the type of tick that bit you can help her prescribe the right antibiotics, which are effective when started early.

Health‘s medical editor, Roshini Rajapaksa, MD, is assistant professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine and co-founder of Tula Skincare.

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