April is Lyme Disease Prevention Month and tick-transmitted diseases can wreak havoc on both pets and humans. According to PetMd, Lyme disease "is an infectious disease that is caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, which is found in several varieties of ticks, but is mostly associated with the common deer tick."Lyme disease commonly occurs in three regions: the northeast and mid-Atlantic states (from Maine to Virginia), the midwest (Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan), and on the west coast (in northern California).
Symptoms of Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is often misdiagnosed in older dogs, because it can mimic the symptoms of arthritis. Symptoms may include:
- Limping (in either leg)
- Lymph node swelling
- Loss of appetite
- Sensitive to touch
- Difficulty breathing
If your dog contracts Lyme disease, it is important to have him treated or it can cause permanent joint damage and ultimately kidney failure.
Lyme Disease Diagnosis
It is important if your dog becomes ill, that you give your veterinarian every clue on where you have been and what you have done that could affect your dog. Chances are your vet will conduct a complete blood profile, including a chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, and a urinalysis to check for any parasites, bacteria or fungi in his bloodstream.
Lyme disease is usually treated with antibiotics.
There are ways to prevent your dog from getting Lyme Disease - some which may be realistic based on your lifestyle and some which may not.
- Avoid areas that may be tick-infested, particularly heavily wooded areas where deer live.
- Spray your immediate home/lawn area with an appropriate insecticide. If you decide to use an anti-tick spray, make sure it's safe for dogs.
- Vaccinate your dog. If you live in a high-risk region, ask your vet about the latest generation of Lyme Disease vaccinations.
- If you see a tick on your dog, remove it by following the directions below.
Removing a tick from your dog:
- Check your pet daily for ticks by thoroughly feeling for any lumps under the hair. Pay close attention to ears, around the face, eyes, legs, and belly.
- When is tick is found embedded in the skin, use a fine pointed tweezers or tick remover tool at the point of attachment, and grasp the tick head firmly and as close to the skin as possible. Remember to wear latex gloves when doing this.
- Using slow, steady, and firm traction, pull the tick straight out from the skin. Some tools, such as the Tick Twister, recommend a circular twist motion while pulling.
- It is critical to NOT squeeze the tick body at any time -- this can inject more potential pathogens into you or your pet while the tick is embedded.
- Cleanse the skin with mild soap and water.
- If a small part of the tick breaks off, you can try to remove it as you would a splinter, but it is probably best to leave it alone. The body will 'eject' it in time.
Place the tick in a jar of alcohol, noting the date, in case of future illness. Tick identification and location of tick infestation will be important for your veterinarian.