Fall is a fantastic time to get out and take a hike with your dog, but be warned…
Ticks and fleas, the parasites which carry diseases that affect both canines and felines, as well as humans, have been steadily increasing in population over recent years. The CDC warns that these six-legged terrors are harboring more diseases than just Lyme disease. However, Lyme disease has been increasing steadily in Ohio in recent years. Current estimates that track the incidence of Lyme in Ohio are reporting over 3,500 cases per year, which is moving Ohioans from the moderate risk category to the increased risk category. Ohio has an optimal climate for harboring Ixodes Scapularis (the black-legged tick), one of the carriers of Lyme disease. Surveillance agencies with the Ohio Department of Health are noting an increase in black-legged tick populations over sixty times higher than in previous years. As the black-legged tick populations increase in Ohio, there is greater potential to see an increase in the number of Lyme disease cases.
In the springtime, black-legged ticks transmit an infection to feeding larvae and nymphs (immature ticks).
These larvae primarily infect rodents and small mammals, whereas adult ticks will infect deer and other large mammals. Nymphs and adult ticks will normally infect humans and pet dogs. After the tick attaches, the spirochete bacteria that cause Lyme disease enter the dog’s body spreading to many different areas. Lyme disease bacteria can spread to the joints, connective tissue, heart, and kidneys. A few weeks after infection, the bacteria is present only in very small quantities in the tissue, but it is the immune system’s response to the infection that causes the majority of symptoms. Usually, illness begins 2-3 months after the tick has attached. Symptoms may include loss of appetite, fever, swollen lymph nodes, increased drinking or urination. Lameness may also be present in one or more limbs. Lyme disease is treated with one or more courses of common antibiotics, such as doxycycline.
There is a simple in-house test made by Idexx that can detect if your pet has been exposed to Lyme disease. If pets have clinical signs and a positive test for Lyme disease, the treatment is inexpensive and very safe. Lyme disease may cause long-term sequela including chronic arthritis and chronic kidney disease. The organism may be difficult to get rid of completely and this can cause disease relapse. In people, Lyme disease causes a characteristic “target lesion” rash on the skin. While very common in humans, the target lesion is present in less than 30% of affected.
Absence of a target lesion where the tick was attached does not mean that a pet is not infected with Lyme disease.
There are several important measures of prevention for your pet:
- First, there is a vaccine available in dogs which protects against Lyme disease. Specialists are now recommending that dogs who spend time outdoors in Ohio on a regular basis should have this vaccine annually.
- Second, have your pet on a monthly flea and tick prevention product. The tick must be attached for at least forty-eight hours in order to spread the spirochete bacteria that cause Lyme disease. Vectra, Revolution, Certifect, and Advantix are all tick prevention products that will cause the tick to detach in less than 48 hours, thus preventing the spread of the bacteria. To ensure maximum efficacy of the product, please check the expiration date on your product… or purchase directly from a veterinarian who is required to check that date for you! While you might save money for products online, many will arrive past their efficacy date… putting you and your pet at risk for contracting a parasite-borne disease.
- Third, DO NOT AVOID THE GREAT OUTDOORS! Enjoy the time outside with your pets, but take precaution. Apply repellent product to your pet as directed. For yourself: wear long sleeves, a cap, slacks, socks, and boots. Or apply bug repellent. ALWAYS check both your self and your pet before re-entering your car or home. A quick brush down is a great way to end a hike and remove any unwanted hitchhikers.
For an updated map on the prevalence of Lyme disease in different areas, please check out: http://www.dogsandticks.com/diseases_in_your_area.php
And, as always, contact us if you have any questions!
These simple preventative measures will protect you and your pet from Lyme and another parasite-borne disease. Enjoy the fall!