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Preventing Lyme disease in dogs

Spring is here—time for you and your pup to get outdoors for some exercise and adventure. Before you rush off for a hike in the woods, keep in mind that Spring also means that the ticks that carry Lyme disease are active again. In fact, April is Prevent Lyme Disease in Dogs month—a great time to refresh your understanding of Lyme disease.

Here we’ll take a quick look at what causes Lyme disease, the way it’s transmitted, the signs and symptoms of the disease, and most importantly, how to prevent it from affecting you and your dog.

What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is the most commonly reported vector-borne illness in the United States. A vector (or “carrier”) is any agent or animal that carries a disease agent without being affected by the disease. Lyme’s, for example, is carried by the deer tick, a common woodland parasite that is smaller and harder to detect than the typical dog tick. The disease agent itself is Borrelia burgdorferi, a wormlike bacterium carried by the deer tick and transmitted when an infected tick bites a host animal (or person). Deer ticks are most commonly found not only in woods, but also in marshlands and even backyards—any place grasses grow. 

The Impact Of Lyme Disease

Though symptoms usually do not appear until 2 to 5 months after a bite from an infected tick, Lyme’s presents as a set of health problems in affected pets. Your pet may begin to show loss of appetite, fever, joint swelling, and/or decreased activity. It can also cause lameness because the bacterium that causes Lyme’s affects the fluid in the joints—causing inflammation, stiffness, and pain. Symptoms can be acute but episodic, varying in severity. Humans can also contract Lyme’s with symptoms of fatigue, lethargy, fever, headaches, and joint pain. Over time these symptoms can be debilitating to both animals and humans.

How is Lyme Disease Diagnosed and Treated?

Lyme’s cannot be transmitted from animal-to-animal or from person-to-person. Since deer tick bites are hard to detect in thick fur, Lyme’s is often diagnosed symptomatically and confirmed by a simple blood test. In humans, the bite from an infected deer tick sometimes appears on the skin as having a pinkish halo around it, sometimes referred to as a “bullseye” rash. Management of Lyme’s relies on antibiotics and long-term follow-up to manage symptoms during flare-ups. 

Preventing Lyme Disease In Dogs

Here are simple measures you can take to prevent Lyme’s from affecting you or your pets:

  • Avoid areas where deer ticks are likely to be prevalent, such as deep woods, marshes, or grasslands.
  • If you do frequent these places—whether while camping, fishing, or hiking—you can limit direct exposure to deer ticks by wearing long pants and long sleeves.
  • Use tick repellant: There are different brands and forms available, so ask your veterinarian which formulations are safe for pets and children. 
  • Use tick prevention on pets: Brands like Nexgard, Frontline, and Advantix can help prevent Lyme disease. See your veterinarian to learn which formulation and dosage are right for your pet.
  • Wear light-colored clothing. This will make it easier to spot ticks on yourself and will allow you to remove them before returning home. 
  • Do frequent tick-checks. After returning from an outing, remember to check yourself and your pet thoroughly for deer ticks. Remember, they’re smaller than dog ticks, so a careful combing is recommended for pets, especially those with longer fur.

If you or your pet exhibit symptoms of Lyme’s, see a doctor or vet immediately. As with many diseases, early detection and treatment can minimize the effects of the disease and are the best ways to ensure your pet of having a long, healthy, active life. Be prepared for any unexpected health issues with dog pet insurance!

How To Check Your Dog For Ticks

Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.

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