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Spring brings warmer weather and sunny days but it also brings out the deer tick that can transmit Lyme Disease to both you and your pet. It is important to learn the symptoms of this debilitating disease and take measures to protect your pet.
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. Cattle and horses develop signs of the disease to a lesser extent. Infection is rare in cats. In most cases, the tick must be attached for 24 hours or more before the Lyme disease bacterium can be transmitted. The deer tick larvae become infected by feeding on white-footed mice. The adult ticks are the main source of infection for dogs, deer, large animals, and humans. While ticks are most active through the summer months, adult ticks can transmit Lyme disease in the winter months as well, especially in New Jersey. Year-round, monthly tick prevention is recommended.
Common clinical signs of Lyme disease in dogs include lethargy, decreased appetite and lameness. Lameness may be intermittent and affect different joints at different times. It is very rare for a bulls-eye rash to appear around the site of the tick bite in pets. While the majority of infected dogs do not develop clinical signs of Lyme disease, if left untreated, dogs can develop heart, nervous system and/or kidney complications including kidney failure.
If your dog is showing symptoms of Lyme disease, see your veterinarian. A blood test can be performed to check for Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases. 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 within 2-3 days.
How You Can Help Your Pet
The best prevention for avoiding this disease is to utilize year-round tick prevention and to inspect your dog daily for ticks, which are commonly found about the face and ears. Consult with your veterinarian to determine the tick prevention that will best fit your dog’s lifestyle and make sure you are using a product that is safe and effective. The Lyme disease vaccine can also be discussed as a component of your preventative strategy.
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.