Have you thought about protecting your pet yet? If not you should start now. Ticks are just around the corner with the warn weather. They are now out of hibernation and hitching a ride on wild animals right into our backyards. This means our pets are at risk.
In some parts of North America the winter has been relatively warm. This is the perfect time to be a tick. They are very hungry and the fields are flowing with wildlife for them to feed on. Which in turn spreads the ticks into our neighborhood as these wild animals scrounge around for food.
This also means that our pets are at risk of contracting Lyme disease. The primary parts of North America that should be concerned right now are the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada. Especially around the Great Lakes regions as the warm moist air is the perfect breeding grounds for ticks at this time of the year.
Not only are our pets at risk, but so are we humans.
The organism that causes Lyme disease is a spiral-shaped bacterium called Borrellia burgdorferi. This is a parasite which first infects ticks. The ticks themselves get it from an infected host and then in turn spread it to other animals such as dogs, cats, and people.
Although cats can get Lyme disease it is more prevalent in our dogs. Cats usually don't show any clinical signs of the disease and do not need any treatment if they contract the disease (in most cases). Dogs, on the other hand, usually do not show signs of the disease for several weeks or months after being infected. And typically only 5% - 10% of dogs with Lyme disease will show any symptoms at all. Typical symptoms of this disease in a dog are:
- Enlarged Lymph Nodes
- Shifting-Leg Lameness
In rare cases, Lyme disease can infect the kidneys and damage them. If this happens there may be additional symptoms such as vomiting, weight loss, increased water intake and lethargy.
Detecting Lyme disease in an animal is usually done through a blood test. This test looks for a specific antibody that will show up in animals infected with Lyme disease.
Detecting Lyme disease is easy, the problem usually occurs with how to treat the disease as there are many different thoughts on this topic.
If you or your Veterinarian suspects that your pet has Lyme disease he or she will probably a simple blood test called the 3dx test. This is basically a blood test that is used to screen for heartworm disease. If your pet tests positive then he has definitely been infected with the organism that causes Lyme Disease.
Once it has been determined that your pet has Lyme disease it is time to start treatment, right? Well, not necessarily. Just because an animal has tested positive doesn't mean that Lyme disease is active. The antibodies for Lyme disease can remain in your pet's blood stream for up to a year. And quite often this is the case. Usually the animal's own immune system will do a great job of clearing out infection on its own without any treatment.
If your pet does need treatment your veterinarian will place the animal on an antibiotic regiment. This should only be done if the animal has clinical signs of Lyme disease. Pets who do not show any signs of this disease should not be treated.
The best way to avoid having your pet infected with Lyme disease is to avoid the situation altogether.
When a tick attaches itself to an animal it usually takes at least 48 hours to transmit the disease to the animal. Therefore, whenever you take your dog for a walk you should give your pet a thorough going over looking for ticks and removing them immediately.
If the constant checking for ticks is not your cup of tea, as it is very time consuming, you may want to have your pet vaccinated against Lyme disease.
Whichever way you decide to go, it is imperative to have a tick control regiment with your pet. The best option for any pet owner is to thoroughly discuss this with your veterinarian and stick to the plan. After all, your pet's health is your number one concern.