What does summer mean to you and your pet? Maybe it means long walks in the park, tossing a Frisbee, swimming in the lake or relaxing in the grassy meadow. Although it can be a refreshing feeling to bond with your pet outside, there are also risks you need to be aware of. Along with keeping your dog hydrated and out of hot cars, it’s also important to check them regularly for ticks, because Lyme disease can affect your dog and your family.
When an infected tick (one that carries a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi) bites a human or animal, it causes Lyme disease, and it’s more common for a black-legged or “Dear Ticks” to carry the disease. Because the tick needs to keep its host’s blood from clotting, it regurgitates different enzymes and this is when the bacterium has a chance to enter the host’s bloodstream. For this reason, it’s beneficial to remove the tick as soon as possible, because if it’s removed within 48 hours, the host is less likely to get the disease, as the tick has not regurgitated yet.
Once the bacterium enters a dog’s bloodstream, it gets carried to every part of the body. However, the disease tends to localize itself at the joints. The symptoms of Lyme disease include swollen and hot joints, fever, poor appetite, lameness, limited mobility, leg pain and swollen lymph nodes. In addition, the disease can sometimes affect the heart, nervous system and kidneys, especially if it’s not treated immediately. Treatment includes antibiotics, which in some cases can help relieve the symptoms within 24 hours.
So how can you prevent Lyme disease? The answer is not avoiding the outdoors, but you have to keep a close eye on your dog’s skin. By grooming them every day, you can check for ticks and remove any that you find with tweezers. If you have been outside all day, the grooming session should be longer and more tedious. For extra protection, you can purchase tick-killing products that are safe for dogs. These products will usually contain permethrin, amitraz or fipronyl. Another option is annual vaccination, which is an alternative that should be discussed with your veterinarian.
So continue to enjoy summertime with your pet, but keep in mind that ticks can affect you too, so it’s just as beneficial to protect and check yourself regularly.