Protecting your dog from Lyme disease

Protecting your dog from Lyme disease
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Dogs also can contract Lyme disease from the deer tick that carries the Borrelia bacterium.

                        

We’ve all heard of Lyme disease and usually think about how it affects humans. But dogs also can contract Lyme disease from the deer tick that carries the Borrelia bacterium.

As the weather warms and people spend more time outdoors — often with their dogs — now is a good time to make sure you’ve protected your dog from the deer tick that carries Lyme disease.

“It usually takes several hard frosts in the late winter or early spring to keep the tick population down, and we haven’t had that,” said Dale Duerr, DVM, of Town & Country Veterinary Clinic. “The Bolivar-Zoar area is already heavy with these ticks, due to the large deer population.”

“We’ve already been removing ticks from animals this year,” said Jessica Trent, DVM, at Valley View Animal Hospital.

According to Trent, ticks can be safely removed at home or at a vet’s office. “It’s not an emergency, and contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to worry about leaving the tick head behind,” she said.

Other diseases spread by ticks

Other common tick-borne diseases that can affect your dog include ehrlychia, anaplasmosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and babesiosis. All the more reason to make sure to protect your dog from tick bites.

Best methods of protection

“Tick prevention is the number-one way to keep your dog safe,” Trent said.

Duerr said, “Nothing actually prevents ticks from getting on, but the methods we recommend will kill the tick and provide some prevention. There is a good collar that lasts eight months, oral prevention that lasts three months and topicals that are applied monthly. Tick and flea protection should be used year round.”

Duerr recommends applying topical treatments more often if you bathe your dog frequently or use a soap-free shampoo. Both Trent and Duerr recommend talking with your veterinarian to understand the best method to use for you and your dog.

Removing ticks

“Dog owners should examine their pets after outdoor activity to look for ticks,” Trent said. “Using a comb or brush may be helpful, as is routine bathing.”

If you do find a tick, Duerr recommends first trying to remove the tick at home using tweezers. “Pull straight up with gentle pressure,” he said. “Don’t squeeze the tick in your hands as it could expel infected blood onto your hands. Wrap the tick in a tissue and flush it down the commode.”

Removing the tick right away is key, according to Duerr, because the deer tick has to be attached to your pet for 24 hours in order to transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.

Symptoms of Lyme disease in your dog

Many people who find ticks rush their dogs to the vet’s office for a Lyme disease test. However, the test will not show a positive result until the infection has been present for at least two to four weeks after the bite. The most common symptom is joint pain, stiffness or swelling.

“Dogs may also develop fever, enlarged lymph nodes, lethargy, lack of appetite and, less commonly, kidney damage,” Trent said.

However, not all dogs will show symptoms. That’s why it’s important to ask your veterinarian for a Lyme disease test 15-30 days after your dog has suffered a tick bite.

If your dog does test positive, Duerr said Lyme disease is treatable with a 30-day course of antibiotics.

When are dogs most at risk for tick bites?

“The risk of infection is greatest in spring and summer because we are out more and into the higher grassy areas,” Duerr said.

This is because people are disturbing the places where ticks may have “wintered over” as larvae. “Even the most manicured lawn can still have ticks,” Duerr said.

The risk to dogs and humans may be even greater this year as the coronavirus and stay-at-home orders drive more people outdoors to exercise and walk their dogs. Duerr advises people to walk in the middle of any trails and stay away from the tall grasses lining the trail.

“When you get home, examine your dog thoroughly to look for ticks and immediately remove any you find,” he said.

Duerr also suggested visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for information on the life cycle of the tick and prevention of Lyme disease in animals and humans. Visit www.cdc.gov/lyme.


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