What You Should Know About Dog Ticks and Lyme Disease

American dog ticks won't cause Lyme disease but beware of another infection.

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I Found a Dog Tick on My Ankle. Can It Cause Lyme Disease?

Not Lyme disease, but dog ticks can give you Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which can be just as serious, and even fatal. Prompt treatment with the antibiotic doxycycline can prevent severe illness and death.

Despite the name, Rocky Mountain spotted fever is a bacterial disease that can happen throughout the country. Most cases occur in five states: North Carolina, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Missouri. Symptoms include fever, headache, vomiting, and a red, spotty rash.

Two other types of ticks also transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever: brown dog tick and Rocky Mountain wood tick. Dog ticks are also commonly known as American dog ticks or wood ticks.

There are more species of ticks, and they're associated with different diseases. Each species looks a bit different, but you can learn to identify the various ticks yourself.

There are also differences in where you can commonly find each type of tick. For example, lone star ticks are more common in the south-central and eastern parts of the US and can cause ehrlichiosis, which leads to head and muscle aches. Blacklegged ticks (also known as deer ticks), which can transmit Lyme disease, are mainly in the northeastern, mid-Atlantic, and north-central parts of the US. Western blacklegged ticks, which can also carry Lyme, are found on the Pacific Coast.

It may sound scary, but keep in mind that a bite doesn't guarantee that you'll get an infection. Not every tick carries disease, and removing the bug within 24 hours can reduce the likelihood of illness. You can remove a tick yourself.

Once you've removed the tick, snap a picture of it. Then, over the next few weeks, keep a close eye out for symptoms such as a red bullseye rash (suggesting Lyme disease) or a fever (an indication of many tick-borne illnesses).

If you do develop symptoms, take the tick photo with you to a healthcare provider. Knowing the type of tick that bit, you can help them prescribe the right antibiotics, which are effective when started early.

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