May is Lyme Disease Prevention Month, and at The Hipster Hound, my friends and I take this very seriously because Lyme disease is no joke! The bacterium that causes Lyme disease is carried and transmitted primarily by the tiny black-legged tick known as the deer tick. Deer ticks are found in forests or grassy, wooded, marshy areas near rivers, lakes or oceans. Humans or animals may be bitten by deer ticks during outdoor activities such as hiking or camping, or even while spending time in their own backyards! SO scary!
What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease (Lyme borreliosis) is an illness that affects both animals and humans and is the most commonly reported vector-borne illness in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Transmitted through tick bites, the disease can be difficult to detect and can cause serious and recurring health problems. Therefore, it is best to prevent infection by taking appropriate measures to prevent tick bites and, for dogs, possibly vaccinating against the disease.
Named after numerous cases that were identified in Lyme, CT in 1975, the disease has since been reported in humans and animals across the United States and around the world. Within the U.S., it appears primarily in specific areas including the southern New England states; eastern Mid-Atlantic states; the upper Midwest, particularly Wisconsin and Minnesota; and on the West Coast, particularly northern California. The CDC maintains a map detailing confirmed cases of Lyme disease throughout the years.
Lyme Disease Symptoms
Pets infected with Lyme disease may not show any signs for two to five months. After that time, typical symptoms include:
- Loss of appetite
- Joint swelling
- Decreased activity
Recurrent lameness also is possible, and the involved extremity may be tender. Inflammation of the joint can last from days to weeks and may migrate from one extremity to another.
Lyme Disease Diagnosis and Treatment
Symptomatically, Lyme disease can be difficult to distinguish from anaplasmosis because the signs of the diseases are very similar, and they occur in essentially the same areas of the country. Lyme disease is diagnosed through a blood test that shows whether an animal has been exposed to the bacterium.
Antibiotics usually provide effective treatment for Lyme disease. However, it’s important to follow your veterinarian’s advice regarding follow-up care after your pet has been diagnosed with and treated for the disease.
Lyme Disease Prevention
The best way to protect pets from Lyme disease is to take preventive measures to reduce the chance of contracting the disease. Even during the last weeks of summer, it's important to remember that pets and humans are at greater risk of being infected with Lyme disease.
Lyme Disease Prevention Checklist
- Use reliable tick-preventive products like Tropiclean Natural Flea & Tick Spot-On Treatment sold at The Hipster Hound.
- Use tick sprays on your dog and/or furniture immediately after exposure to ticks like Tropiclean Natural Flea & Tick Spray or Vet's Best Flea & Tick Spray sold at The Hipster Hound
- Work with your veterinarian to decide whether to vaccinate your dog against Lyme disease. Your veterinarian’s advice may depend on where you live, your pet's lifestyle and overall health, and other factors.
- When possible, avoid areas where ticks might be found. These include tall grasses, marshes and wooded areas.
- Check for ticks on both yourself and your animals once indoors.
- Clear shrubbery next to homes.
- Keep lawns well maintained.
If pet parents follow our tips for staying tick-free, then your furry friends will be safe from Lyme disease just like me!
Rex, The Original Hipster Hound