What’s this year’s forecast for Lyme disease in our furry family members? Check out the Pet Parasite Forecast, and you’ll see Lyme disease in dogs this year is higher when compared to historical figures — with a more than five percent infection rate in Indiana. Why the higher-than-average risk? The uptick in ticks.
According to the website of the renowned veterinary publication dvm360®, Lyme disease is spreading because of the expansion of the tick’s vector host habitat range, primarily deer and rodents, and birds carrying ticks to new areas. Warmer weather and longer seasons for tick production are also factors.
The Tick Uptick
The most common types of ticks are the American dog tick, lone star tick and black-legged tick (deer tick), which is the smallest of the common ticks and the primary carrier of Lyme disease. Ticks are most active in warmer weather, and they thrive in damp, wooded areas where there is a lot of leaf litter; grassy fields; in and around camp sites; urban yards with tall grass; and tall grass and other vegetation next to the highway or at rest stops (or pet exercise areas).
Lyme disease is the most commonly reported tick-borne disease in the United States. Lyme disease can affect people and pets both, but people get it from being bitten by the same ticks that transmit it to pets. Therefore, preventing exposure to ticks is important for you and your furry family members.
Symptoms of Lyme Disease in Pets
The characteristic bull’s-eye rash often seen in Lyme disease does not develop in dogs or cats. In fact, dogs may not even show signs of illness for weeks or months after an infected tick bites them — and many dogs that are infected never show signs of illness. These signs include fever, limping or lameness (shifting, intermittent and recurring), swollen lymph nodes, joint swelling, fatigue and loss of appetite.
Identifying Lyme disease is important in order to get your pet effective treatment — not doing so could lead to rare but serious health complications. Once diagnosed by your vet, treatment includes antibiotics, usually for at least 30 days. This often resolves symptoms quickly, but in some cases, the infection will persist, and prolonged medication may be needed.
Protecting Your Pets
Make sure to inspect your pet for ticks after walks through the woods or grassy areas. On dogs, look especially on the feet (and between toes), on lips, around eyes, ears (and inside ears), near the anus and under the tail.
If you do find a tick, remove it immediately — or take your pet to the vet to have it removed. The quicker you find the tick, the less likely your dog will contract a secondary illness related to tick bites.
There is also a safe and effective vaccine available for protecting dogs against Lyme disease, so always consult your veterinarian about the best flea and tick prevention medication for your pet.