The spring’s approaching. It means that the ticks are getting ready to feast. Once the weather is warmer, and you get out in the grass and under the trees, they will likely be waiting for you.
If that tick happens to be infected with Lyme disease then it will be passed on through their bite as it goes into the bloodstream. And, it doesn’t matter where you live. There are Lyme carrying ticks on every continent but Antarctica.
Armed with enough information, there is nothing to panic about. Though it can be serious, there are ways to avoid it and then treat it if it does become a problem.
Here are some things to know about Lyme disease when it comes to your dog.
What Is Lyme Disease?
Lyme borreliosis, the scientific name for Lyme disease is a disease passed along by tiny deer ticks. The tick injects a bacterial parasite that can ultimately cause pain in the joints and even affect the heart and central nervous system.
Deer ticks are found in grassy areas, forests, and even marshes. These are prime areas for you to be taking your dog out to play. Even people’s yards that have overgrown grass can be a haven for deer ticks.
Dogs and people both are susceptible as dogs will likely be in the same area with their owner. Ticks don’t mind if you are human or animal. If they can make their way onto your skin they will bite and infect you with the bacteria.
Preventing your dog from getting bitten by a tick in the first place is the best way to keep them safe. Though nothing is foolproof, it is better to avoid than treat the disease.
Before you go out, scout locations and see if there is a lot of high grass that would be hiding ticks. Avoid those areas and stick to places where the grass is mowed regularly and try to not linger under trees as ticks can hide in the branches and fall onto your dog.
You can use some flea and tick shampoo to repel any ticks that may find their way onto your dog. The ticks don’t like the chemicals and won’t attach when they smell it. If you like natural methods then you can add garlic and apple cider vinegar to your dog’s diet.
Every year, alerts are given which indicate the severity of the tick infestation of a particular area. Pay close attention to these alerts and do your best to avoid areas with high tick populations.
Though there is yet to be a vaccine for humans against Lyme disease, there has been one available for dogs called LYMErix since the 1990s.
Most vets like Paoli Vetcare can administer the vaccine and then you can go about your routine with your dog carefree. Well, you will have to take your own precautions to avoid getting infected yourself, but you won’t have to worry about your pooch.
There are risks to be aware of when it comes to vaccines and some vets suggest not getting one since there are antibiotics to treat it if they do get infected. In fact, only 5% of dogs end up with arthritis from the damage the disease does to the joints.
Possible side effects from the vaccine are allergic reactions and some organ damage. These side effects are rare and your vet will likely tell you about the risks beforehand.
As far as how effective a vaccine is, it depends on the breed, but for dogs that have Lyme disease, as much as 30% of them have had the vaccine.
Treat house and lawn
Even your own home can be a danger zone as there can be ticks lurking there. You can use some treatments around your yard and house to try to keep the ticks away.
Your best bet is to begin by keeping the lawn low. Don’t let the grass grow too high or it will allow ticks to attack. Even the edges of the lawn are prime territory for the ticks to hide out so do some edging as well. When you are done mowing, then take the clippings and dispose of them by adding them to a mulch pile or putting in a bag to make sure any ticks in there can’t find their way out.
If your yard is fairly uniform, you can make an edge with gravel around the perimeter. Ticks won’t crawl through them so if they aren’t deposited right into your yard then they will stay away. Even wood chips will work if gravel will cost too much.
Keeping chickens is also a very effective way to get rid of ticks. They are low to the ground and will gobble up every tick they come across. Then as a bonus, you get fresh eggs in return. Not only that, but your yard will be naturally fertilized.
If chickens are not your thing, then attract some birds with feeders and water fountains. Robins love to eat ticks and are abundant around when ticks first make an appearance.
There are chemicals you can treat your yard with if you are comfortable with that. Or, call an exterminator if you see you have a large number of ticks.
If all else fails, then you can check your dog for ticks and if you find any then remove them. Don’t be tempted to just try to yank the tick off of your dog as the head can stay on and still infect him. Not only that, but you risk a bacterial infection as it can cause bleeding.
Your best bet is to use a tick removal tool that is specialized to take the tick off of the skin without it leaving its head attached. Make sure to get rid of the tick quickly as it needs to be connected for up to 48 hours for it to infect your dog. If you are checking regularly and removing them right away then you have a head start.
Make sure you pull the fur away well and get as close to the skin as possible with the tool. Be gentle when pulling it off and use a straight motion to avoid the head from staying behind.
What Happens If Your Dog Gets Lyme Disease?
Even if your dog gets Lyme disease, they may not become ill. In fact, many times you won’t even know they have it as it has no effect on their health. If your dog does test positive but doesn’t show any signs of illness, then your vet will likely not recommend any treatment.
When it does affect their health, it can be really hard on their joints. Their mobility will be affected and they will often be in pain. Not to mention that it can cause heart disease which will significantly shorten the life of your dog.
The signs to look out for if you think they might have Lyme disease are lameness, fever, lethargy, and enlarged lymph nodes. It may take up to five months for the symptoms to appear so be on the lookout even in the winter.
If they do appear infected then the treatment is a range of antibiotics. Doxycycline is the most common and takes around 30 days for the entire cycle. It is given twice per day, every 12 hours. Improvements will be seen in as little as 48 hours, however. If after three days there are no improvements, then call your vet. And if they get worse, then you should call the vet right away.
Some dogs do not do well with antibiotics and may need a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory.
Relapses are possible as there is no cure for Lyme disease. The bacteria will always be there, unfortunately. Even a few years after the treatment, there can be a recurrence of high fever, swollen lymph nodes or even difficulty walking.
When Lyme disease was first discovered in 1975 there was not much known about it. Treatment options were limited and it was thought to be much worse than it is these days.
Even though it shouldn’t be taken lightly, it is not as grave a condition as it may seem. Taking precautions is always going to be the best. Some areas have a much higher tick problem than others so it can be an ongoing problem for some dog owners.
Not to mention that it can be a year-round issue if temperatures don’t go below 40°F for a prolonged period. Southern states have a harder time controlling the tick population.
Be very vigilant at avoiding and looking for ticks and you will be rewarded with a happy and healthy pup!