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"Will you test my tick?" Notes from Scott Weese; Worms & Germs Blog

"We are not testing all ticks that we get through tick tracker submissions, but we will be testing some for specific reasons not related to patient health.  It’s important to understand why we don’t test for the sake of the patient.

For a dog (or person) to get Lyme disease, several things all have to happen:

  1. It has to be bitten by a tick.
  2. The tick has to be a species that carries B. burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease.
  3. The tick has to actually be infected with the bacterium.
  4. The tick has to be attached long enough to transmit the bacterium during feeding.
  5. The bacterium has to escape the immune system and cause an infection.

We cover #1 and #2 with our tick tracking. If the tick isn’t a black legged tick, then Lyme disease isn’t an issue (and testing the tick for that bacterium makes no sense).

Testing doesn’t change what I do to manage a canine patient. However, it can be useful from a research standpoint to let us know about infection rates, what other pathogens might be present, the strains of Borrelia that might be involved, and similar (often poorly investigated) areas).

Tick testing is available commercially but I don’t recommend it because it doesn’t change what I do.

  • If the tick was positive, I’d say “you need to do good tick prevention” and “you should be aware of Lyme disease” and “we need to consider Lyme disease if your dog develops signs that could be consistent with that disease.”
  • If the tick was negative, I’d say “that tick was negative, but what about any others?” Then I’d say “you need to do good tick prevention” and “you should be aware of Lyme disease” and “we need to consider Lyme disease if your dog develops signs that could be consistent with that disease.”

Since it’s the same answer in either case, there’s not a lot of use for routine testing, from my standpoint.

So, keep the tick reports coming to our tracking site at and feel free to send any to us for identification (as described through that site). However, don’t expect routine testing for Borrelia since it won’t change what we recommend for your dog."

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