Lyme disease has made national news in recent years, and for good reason. This debilitating disease affects pets as well as humans and can cause joint pain, fatigue, and other painful complications. What’s more, it’s tough to diagnose.
The CDC estimates that over 300,000 people contract Lyme disease every year in the US and with warm weather and tick season continuing well into the autumn (and even our mild Texas winters), now is a great time to learn about how it is contracted, how to recognize it, and most importantly, how to prevent it from striking your pet or your family.
Lyme Disease in Pets
The Lyme disease bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi is spread by the bite of an infected tick. In the north-central and northeastern United States, the black-legged tick transmits Lyme disease. In Texas, the tick most likely to attach and transmit Lyme disease are the Lone Star tick and the brown dog tick.
Lyme disease most commonly affects dogs, but cats can also be infected. It takes 7 to 10 days after the disease is transmitted for signs to appear. In pets, these most often include fever, joint pain, joint swelling, lameness, and inappetance. Signs may appear, disappear, and then reappear weeks, months, or even years after the initial infection. If your pet displays any of these signs, schedule an appointment right away so we can evaluate her immediately.
How To Protect Your Pet
Making sure your pet is on a year-round effective tick control medication is the absolute best way to protect her from Lyme disease. If you need a refill or to start a preventive medication, please call us to we can get your pet protected right away.
Other methods of tick prevention can also help prevent your pet from contracting a tick borne illness, including Lyme disease. Some tips:
- Wear light colored clothing when hiking, and check for ticks frequently on yourself and your dog while outdoors
- Keep out of tick-y areas, such as brush, tall grass, and heavily wooded areas
- Control ticks in your yard by keeping brush and leaf debris cleared and prevent wildlife from entering your yard with fencing
- Inspect your pet thoroughly before you come inside from a hike or time outdoors. Pay special attention to the armpits, groin, ears, toes, and base of the tail
- Talk to your veterinarian to determine if the Lyme disease vaccine is a good option for your dog
How To Remove A Tick
It takes 36-48 hours for an attached tick to transmit the Lyme disease bacterium. If you do find a tick on your dog, it’s critical that you remove it right away. Here are the steps to take to safely remove a tick from your dog.
- Part your dog’s fur to see where the tick is attached to the skin
- Use a pair of tweezers or a tick removal tool to grasp the base of the tick as close to your dog’s skin as possible
- Using a steady motion, pull the tick directly up and out, without twisting or turning
- Clean the site with rubbing alcohol or a pet safe disinfectant
- Save the tick in a lidded jar in case your dog develops Lyme disease symptoms and we need to send the tick in to the lab for testing
Never use the following internet methods for removing ticks. They are not safe, and can even cause a safety risk to your dog!
- Never “suffocate” a tick by using nail polish, petroleum jelly, or the like on your pet’s skin
- Never try to burn the tick off with a match or lighter – this is the definition of a fire hazard!
- Never try to freeze the tick off with ice or other methods
Preventing Lyme disease and other tick borne diseases is an important component of responsible pet ownership. If you have any questions or need assistance, please don’t hesitate to reach out to your team at Brodie Animal Hospital.