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Jul 05, 2017

It’s Tick Season: Protect Your Pet and Your Family from Lyme Disease

By Garden State Veterinary Specialists

 

The New Jersey Department of Health describes Lyme disease as an illness caused by infection with the bacterium Borrelia burgdorfer (boar-ELL-ee-uh burg-dorf-ERR-eye). This bacterium is carried by ticks. The disease is transmitted to humans and dogs by the nymph and adult stages of the black-legged tick, Ixodes scapularis. Lyme disease is not a zoonotic disease; therefore, it cannot be directly transmitted from your dog to you. However, if a tick crawls off your dog and bites you, you can become infected.

Typical symptoms of the infection in people include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system. Many dogs that test positive for Lyme disease do not show any symptoms. This makes it difficult to determine which dogs should be treated. If your dog does develop clinical illness from Lyme disease, the most common signs are lameness, fever, lethargy, and enlarged lymph nodes. Clinical illness is expected two to five months after infection. The majority of dogs respond very well to antibiotics, but treatment decisions must be made on a case by case basis by your veterinarian.

In order for your dog to contract Lyme disease from a tick, it is necessary for it to be attached for a period of 48 hours. Prompt removal of the tick is therefore important in helping to prevent infection. If you are comfortable removing the tick, you do not need to see your vet. Remove ticks by carefully using tweezers to firmly grip the tick as close to the pet’s skin as possible, then gently and steadily pull the tick free without twisting it or crushing the tick during removal. Crushing, twisting, or jerking the tick out of the skin while its head is still buried could result in leaving the tick’s mouth parts in your pet’s skin; this can cause a reaction and may become infected. After removing the tick, crush it while avoiding contact with tick fluids that can carry disease. Do not attempt to smother the tick with alcohol or petroleum jelly, or apply a hot match to it, as this may cause the tick to regurgitate saliva into the wound and increase the risk of disease if the tick is infected.

Of course, the best way to prevent Lyme disease is to ensure that your pet’s exposure to ticks is limited. Cut your lawn regularly and remove all tall weeds. Using a tick preventative on your pet that is recommended by your veterinarian can also provide very effective protection. Check your pet for ticks on a daily basis, feeling for bumps or brushing their fur regularly. If you are concerned you are not inspecting your pet adequately or live in an area where ticks are very common, you can ask your vet to conduct a tick screening.

The information contained in this article does not constitute veterinary advice and is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition.