Does your pet enjoy the outdoors? Do you travel together to grassy or forested areas between Maine and Virginia? What about simply hanging out in the backyard? If the answer is “yes” to any of these questions, then your pet could easily be exposed to ticks. These creepy, crawly bugs have a terrible reputation for spreading Lyme disease in pets (and people). However, just because they’re likely to cross paths with these blood-hungry parasites doesn’t mean the animals we love should be easy targets.
A Bit About Ticks
Ticks are considered ectoparasites, meaning they thrive off the outside of their prey. Related to spiders, ticks are wingless and rely on heat sensors to find their next blood meal. By placing themselves on leaves, grass, and branches, ticks wait to attach themselves to anyone walking by – human or animal.
Ticks spread various diseases, like Rocky Mountain spotted fever and ehrlichiosis, but in all 48 contiguous states, Lyme disease is spread by infected deer ticks (also known as black-legged ticks). Caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, Lyme disease can be prevented with the following:
- Yearly vaccinations (for dogs only)
- Monthly parasite preventive used year-round
- Keeping your pet away from overgrown, shady, heavily wooded areas
- Maintaining a short, weed-free lawn where ticks cannot hide or thrive
- Close inspection of your pet’s legs, feet, belly, back, chest, and ears (daily checks are highly recommended)
- Eradication of any rodents on your property
- Keeping deer out of the yard
Lyme Disease in Pets
Spring through fall are prime feeding times for ticks, but due to their life cycle that enables a state of dormancy during winter, year-round parasite prevention is critical. Topical applications won’t inhibit a tick from landing on your pet, but the tick will eventually die as a result of the treatment.
It can take up to 2 days for a feeding tick to transmit disease. It’s absolutely critical to remove a tick as soon as you notice it.
Screening and Treatment
If any doses of a preventive medication are skipped and the risk of exposure is high, we may recommend screening your pet for Lyme disease. A positive result may or may not coincide with the following common symptoms:
- Joint pain
- Sudden lameness
- Lack of appetite
- Swollen lymph nodes
Lyme disease in pets takes about 6 weeks to trigger a response from the immune system. The typical rash that people experience doesn’t occur in pets. Antibiotics may be prescribed for several weeks, but many pets improve after just a few days.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns. Due to our climate and geography, ticks can be lurking in our own backyards. However, with the right preventive tactics, your pet won’t be their next victim!