April is Prevent Lyme in Dogs Month. Its goal: to increase awareness of the risks and encourage pet owners to take precautions. Although it has been found in every state, Lyme is most prevalent in the Northeast and upper Midwest.
Ticks are bloodsucking external parasites that feed on humans, wild and domestic mammals, birds, reptiles and others. They are totally dependent on the blood/tissue fluids of the host.
The longer an infective tick feeds, the greater the chance of infection. A tick needs to be attached for 48 hours to transmit the Lyme disease bacteria. These tiny disease carriers are most active during spring through fall, and can transmit Lyme disease to both you and your pets. Some infected animals will not show symptoms, while others develop fever, loss of appetite, joint pain, and lethargy.
Although humans can develop heart and neurological problems, these issues are extremely rare in infected pets. However, if untreated, canine Lyme disease can cause kidney damage. When Lyme is detected early and treated with antibiotics, pets recover quickly. If you suspect your pet has been infected, your veterinarian can run a blood test to find out.
Although the prospect of contracting Lyme disease or other tick-borne diseases is a concern to us all, you can still enjoy an outdoor lifestyle as long as you take preventative measures. Ticks thrive in damp, dense woods, so walk your dog on trails and away from vegetation, and keep cats indoors. Control tick habitation by mowing your lawn regularly and removing leaf litter and brush piles. Ticks are hard to find, but checking your pets frequently can greatly reduce the chance of infection.
If you live in a high-risk area, your veterinarian may recommend an annual Lyme disease vaccination, screenings, and a repellant. Safe, reliable products are available from your veterinarian. Many prevent fleas as well.