Tick season is now in full swing and will continue through the summer. With tick season comes more cases of Lyme disease. Although Lyme disease could spread at any time of year, it is more common when ticks are more active.
Since Lyme disease can cause severe problems in dogs, and May is National Lyme Disease Awareness Month, we wanted to take some time to educate you about Lyme disease as a pet owner.
What Is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is a bacterial illness transmitted to humans, dogs, and other animals by ticks.
A tick bites a person or an animal, and the bacterium gets transmitted to their bloodstream. The most common symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs are:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Joint swelling
- Loss of appetite
The above symptoms typically occur at the chronic disease stage and as early as 2-5 months after infections, although signs can develop much later.
If Lyme disease is left untreated, symptoms can progress to kidney failure and even be fatal in severe cases. Serious neurological impacts and cardiac effects may also occur due to untreated Lyme disease.
Where Do Ticks Live?
You will most commonly find ticks outdoors in leaf litter, shrubs, or bushes. Ticks also exist in non-wooded areas. You can also find them in tall grasses. Ticks attach and cling on to passing animals. For this reason, it is essential to check your pet for ticks after you’ve spent any time outdoors. If you feel a small bump on your pet, be sure to part your pet’s fur and take a closer look.
How to Remove Ticks from Pets
There are many old myths about how to remove ticks. Some people thought you could remove a tick by exposing it to heat. Another is dousing the tick with peppermint oil. Others believed that you had to twist the tick to get it out. These are neither safe nor effective methods.
For the safest method, watch the video from PetMD below.
Lyme Disease Diagnosis and Treatment
Diagnosis is made by a combination of history, physical signs, and blood tests. Using this combination, we can see if a dog has been exposed to the bacterium that causes Lyme disease.
Treatment includes antibiotics, usually for at least 30 days. However, it’s essential to follow your veterinarian’s advice regarding follow-up care after we have diagnosed and treated your pet.
Lyme Disease in Illinois
Here in Illinois, ticks carrying Lyme disease are most commonly found in the northern part of the state, although it has been found in all regions. The specific type of tick that carries Lyme disease is the Deer Tick.
There are many ticks found in Illinois besides the Deer Tick, and some of them can transmit other harmful diseases to you and your pets. Apply the same prevention guidelines to help protect against any type of tick. You can look here for more information on other ticks in Illinois.
Lyme Disease Prevention
The best treatment for Lyme disease is preventative treatment. Here are tips from the AVMA to help you prevent Lyme disease:
- There are several products that contain tick preventatives and are very effective in helping decrease tick exposure. The second method of prevention is vaccination. Please speak with us about which tick preventive product is right for your pet.
- When possible, avoid areas where you and your dog might come into contact with ticks. These include tall grasses, marshes, and wooded areas.
- Check for ticks on both yourself and your animals once indoors after being outside.
- Clear shrubbery next to homes.
- Keep lawns well maintained.
Lyme disease can be difficult to detect, especially in the early stages, and the disease can be quite debilitating for a dog. Prevention is generally much easier and safer than treating the disease once it has progressed to severe symptoms. At Countryside Veterinary Service, we strive to provide your furry friends with the best possible care and attention. Preventing Lyme disease and other illnesses is a big part of that! With your help, we can cut down on the spread of Lyme disease in Illinois.
Dr. Stacey Funderburk
Countryside Veterinary Services