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Lyme Disease is on the Rise: Protecting Your Pet From Ticks

Deer tick on white ground, Lyme Disease carrier

Lyme Disease is a potentially serious illness that is transmitted through the bit of certain species of infected ticks. The most common carriers are deer ticks on the East Coast and the western black-legged tick on the Pacific Coast of the United States. It is most common in the United States, but cases of Lyme Disease have been found in many other countries, particularly where there are cooler conditions part of the year and lots of tall grass and wild brush.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, Lyme Disease could reach epidemic portions in the United States in 2017, particularly along the East Coast. Clemson University recently released a new Lyme Disease forecast map which will help veterinarians, physicians and hospitals anticipate any increases in the disease so that treatment is begun as quickly as possible.

Symptoms of Lyme Disease

The symptoms of Lyme Disease can show up weeks or even months after being bitten, so pet owners should keep an eye on their pets and watch for the symptoms of Lyme Disease, including:

  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Fatigue that seems overwhelming
  • Lack of appetite
  • Stiffness and pain in the joints
  • Swollen joints
  • Limping or lameness that can be intermittent
  • A bull’s eye shaped rash at the bite site
  • Severe headaches
  • Memory problems or mental “fogginess”

If you or your pet show the above symptoms, testing should be done to determine whether it is Lyme Disease or another illness. Fortunately, Lyme Disease can usually be treated with a month-long course of antibiotics, although complete recovery can take longer. In some cases, Lyme Disease in humans is misdiagnosed as Fibromyalgia, MS, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and other illnesses. It’s therefore important to let your doctor know if you’ve been exposed to ticks or if you suspect Lyme Disease in order to prevent a delayed diagnosis and spreading of the infection.

Dog sitting in tall grass scratching for fleas and ticks

Pets who play in grassy areas or fields are most likely to pick up ticks that carry Lyme Disease

How Lyme Disease is Transmitted

Dogs often get Lyme Disease, but they can’t transmit it directly to humans. People usually contract Lyme Disease when bitten by an infected tick. For this reason, it’s critical to check your dog for ticks any time he comes in from outside. Cats can also contract Lyme Disease, but it is less common in felines. Ticks will latch onto any body part, but they most often bite people and pets in hard-to-notice areas such as the base of the ears or behind the ears, the scalp, the groin and in the armpits. If you find and are able to remove a tick before it has been attached for 36 hours, the Lyme disease bacteria probably won’t be transmitted. For this reason, it’s best to check your pet for ticks every time he comes in from outdoors.

Safely Removing Ticks from Pets or Your Body

If you find a tick on yourself or your pet, it should be removed as soon as possible. The tick can be removed by grabbing the head of the tick with tweezers, pulling up so that the head comes out still attached to the body of the tick. It is not a good idea to apply heat or chemicals such as rubbing alcohol to a tick to try to dislodge it. These methods can cause the head of the insect to break off and remain under the surface of the skin, requiring medical attention to remove it. After removing the tick, swab the area with disinfectant or wash with soap and water.

Protecting Your Pets from Ticks

With ticks, the best defense is a good offense. Because ticks are so tiny, they can be overlooked. It takes just one bite from an infected tick to transmit Lyme Disease to you or your pet, so prevention is the best way to protect you, your family and your pets from this debilitating illness. Talk to your pet’s veterinarian about preventative treatments such as a flea and tick collar, a topical liquid that can be applied to animals once a month, and powders that can be applied to the fur. Most dogs and cats respond well to these treatments, but an occasional allergic reaction can take place, so monitor your pets closely for the first few days after application.

If you or your pet begin to show signs of Lyme Disease, consult with your doctor or your pet’s veterinarian about proper treatment and support. For more information on Lyme Disease and ticks, visit the CDC’s Lyme Disease page at https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/index.html.

 

 

 


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