Spring brings warm weather and sunny days but it also brings out the deer tick that can transmit Lyme Disease to both you and your pet. Your pet depends on you to keep him safe so please learn the symptoms of this debilitating disease and take measures to protect him.
What is Lyme Disease? Lyme disease is caused by a type of bacterium known as a spirochete. The disease gets its name from Lyme, Connecticut, an area where the disease was first recognized in the United States. The bacteria infect a wide range of hosts including humans and dogs. Cats, cattle and horses develop signs of the disease to a lesser extent. Infection is first established in the animal's skin only after the tick is engorged 24-48 hours after initial contact. The deer tick larvae become infected by feeding on white-footed mice. The adult ticks are the main source of infection for dogs, deer, people, and large animals. Prime Lyme disease season is from April-September.
Symptoms: The most common sign of the disease in dogs is recurrent acute arthritis and lameness. Also noticeable is decreased appetite and depression. It is very rare for a bulls-eye rash to appear around the site of the tick bite in pets. Untreated, your pet can develop heart, nervous system and /or kidney complications including fatal kidney failure.
Treatment: If your dog is experiencing symptoms, a blood test can be performed in your veterinarian's office to check for Lyme disease and Ehrlichiosis, another tick-borne disease. If your pet's test comes back positive, treatment for Lyme disease generally consists of four weeks of antibiotics. Although antibiotics do not always eliminate the infection, they do improve symptoms in 2-3 days.
How You Can Help Your Pet: The best prevention for avoiding this disease is to utilize tick repellents year-round and to groom dogs daily and inspect for ticks, which are most commonly found about the face and ears. When selecting a tick-repellant, check with your veterinarian. Using the wrong insecticides could make your pet very ill. Currently, there are two vaccines available for dogs through your veterinarian. It's a good idea to start vaccinating prior to exposure at 8-12 weeks of age with yearly boosters.
Tick Removal: If you see a tick attached to your pet's skin, don't cover the tick with petroleum jelly, rubbing alcohol or fingernail polish, or try to burn the tick with a match. Instead, grab the tick as close as you can to the skin using tweezers. Swab the area with alcohol once the tick is removed.
If you need a veterinarian, please call the New Jersey Veterinary Medical Association at 908-281-0918 for a referral or visit our website at dev.njvma.org. The New Jersey Veterinary Medical Association represents the state's 1,600 licensed veterinarians.