You don’t want ticks to hitch a ride on your dogs. These pesky pests may make your skin crawl, but they also carry diseases like Lyme disease that can infect you and your dog. Lyme disease is the most common illness spread by ticks and it has a tragic effect on its victims, causing pain, depression, and potentially major damage to organs. As things warm up around Pine City and Grantsburg, we want to remind you of the things every dog owner needs to know about Lyme disease.
1. Ticks Don’t Just Live in the Woods
While a variety of ticks can spread Lyme disease, the deer tick is the most common culprit. While they are often found in wooded areas where deer hang out, ticks can hide almost anywhere outdoors, including in your yard.
What are some favorite habitats for ticks?
- Bushes and shrubs
- Tall grasses
- Trails and nearby sidewalks
- Backyard play structures
- In and around trees
- Around standing water and streams
2. Lyme Disease is the Result of Bacteria
Bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi are the cause of most Lyme disease cases in North America and are spread through a tick’s saliva. Another bacteria causing the illness, Borrelia mayonii, was discovered in 2013. While B. burgdorferi can found in several endemic areas across the United States, B. mayonii has only been found in the upper Midwest (lucky us!).
3. Not All Regions Are Equally Affected
While you can find cases of Lyme disease all over the U.S. and Canada, Wisconsin has one of the highest rates of occurrences. We’re not alone, though: Minnesota, New England, and northern California also report several thousand cases of Lyme each year.
4. Your Dog Can Hide the Symptoms of Lyme Disease
One of the most frightening aspects of this illness is that the infected can go months without showing any signs or symptoms. Typically, dogs won’t appear symptomatic for the first 2 to 5 months after infection.
When your dog does begin to show symptoms, they often come in the form of:
- Limping and lameness (this can sometimes shift from one leg to another as well as disappear and return)
- Lack of appetite
- Sore and swollen joints
- Reluctance to play
Often dog owners have no idea their dogs have Lyme disease. Sometimes they bring them in because their dog stopped eating or is walking oddly, like stepping on thorns.
5. Lyme Disease Causes More than Joint Pain
Stiff, achy joints are often a common and early sign of infection by B. burgdorferi or B. mayonii. But because Lyme disease can go months without detection, the bacteria often spread throughout a dog’s body by the time their owner notices symptoms, potentially damaging the heart, nervous system, and kidneys.
6. People Aren’t Immune to Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is a zoonotic illness, which means that the bacteria can be spread from animals to humans. While you cannot catch Lyme disease directly from interacting with your dog, you and your family can become infected by ticks that feed on your dog and then latch on to you.
7. Lyme Disease is Easier to Prevent than Treat
Treatment is most effective when there is an early diagnosis, which can be done with blood tests and urine analysis. From there we prescribe antibiotics like doxycycline to kill the bacteria and may recommend other prescriptions or therapies to help relieve any symptoms.
Prevention is much easier than treatment. A flea and tick preventative can kill any ticks that attach to your dog before they are able to transfer the bacteria that cause Lyme disease.
Lyme Disease is Painful and Can Be Fatal
When you don’t give Lyme disease a chance to harm your pet, you’re protecting your pet, your wallet, and your family. Don’t let your dog become one of the many pets and animals in our area that becomes infected with Lyme disease. Make an appointment and ask about a prescription for prevention.
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