Lyme disease is an debilitating illness that is contracted from coming into contact with a deer tick carrying a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi spirochete. The bacterium lives inside the stomach of the tick and when the tick bites a dog or a human, the bacterium passes into the bloodstream where it multiplies. However, not all deer ticks are infected and the bacterium only moves from the tick to the host if the tick regurgitates the contents in its stomach-an action that does not occur for 24 to 36 hours after the tick attaches itself.
Younger deer ticks are considered more dangerous because they often are not detected, due to their small size, allowing them to feed for days at a time. Because the bacterium requires direct access to the bloodstream, the disease is not considered contagious and cannot be passed from dog to human, dog to dog, or human to human. Lyme disease is curable with antibiotics.
armer months means more time outdoors, taking walks, playing at the local park or vacationing in natural surroundings with your loyal canine companion. However, when the air outside turns warmer, it is also a time when people and dogs are susceptible to parasite-borne diseases such as Lyme disease.
A group of experts, consisting of veterinary parasitologists and statisticians have predicted that Lyme disease is a big risk this year for dogs (and likely humans too). The prediction comes by studying a number of factors such as humidity, forest cover, deer strikes by car and elevation. By understanding what Lyme disease is, how to recognize it, and how to protect your dog from it, you can keep your beloved companion (and yourself) healthy.
Recognizing the Signs of Lyme Disease
In most cases, a rash appears on the skin of the person or dog who has contracted the disease that resembles a bulls-eye. However, you might not see that rash if your dog has a thick coat of fur or is a long-haired breed. If a dog is exhibiting the following symptoms, they should be examined by a veterinarian as soon as possible:
• Listlessness • Depression • Fever
If Lyme disease is suspected, medical professionals recommend finding the tick and keeping it for testing to see if it is infected with the bacterium. The sooner that the disease can be detected the sooner it can be treated. If left untreated, the disease can cause problems with a dog's kidneys, heart, and even cognitive functions. With humans, Lyme disease has been known to create problems with body organs, the nervous system, the heart, joints, and even the brain. It has the ability to mimic other diseases which can make it hard to diagnose.
The easiest way to prevent a dog from getting Lyme disease or any other parasitic illness is to simply put your dog on a medication that protects them from parasites and by having the dog examined every year by a veterinarian. People who live in the Northeast and west of the Great Lakes should especially consider this option since those are high risk areas. However, whether you live in the Great Plains or on the west coast, cases of Lyme disease have been reported so it is always best to be overly cautious.
Other measures that you can take to protect yourself and your dog include avoiding tall grasses and bushes, where deer ticks are apt to hide. Legs, arms, and the head should be protected and light colored material is recommended since it will make it easier to spot ticks. When you return from an outdoor activity, always carefully check yourself and your pet over to make sure that there are no ticks hitching a ride. Repellent can also help keep them away.
By taking the time to become educated on what Lyme disease is, how to recognize it, and how to lower your and your pet's risk, you will be able to continue to enjoy the beauty of nature.