The Spring season is here, and that means so is a major pet health concern: Lyme Disease.
Lyme disease, which can affect both animals and humans, is known as a zoonotic disease. The bacterium that causes Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi ) is carried and transmitted primarily by the deer tick and can be common in many regions of the country. Lyme disease is the most commonly reported insect-transmitted illness in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Ticks can often go unnoticed because of their size. However, once a tick bites you or your dog, it is capable of causing several diseases.
- Lyme Disease - an illness that can cause arthritis, lethargy, and swelling of the joints.
- Rocky Mounted spotted fever - which can cause fever, lameness, and other symptoms.
- Ehrlichiosis and Anaplasmosis - are less common diseases that are also transmitted by ticks.
The most effective way to prevent ticks (and other parasites) is to administer a preventative medication recommended by your veterinarian. However, there are other ways to help keep ticks at bay.
Here are some extra precautions you can take to keep ticks and tick-borne illnesses away from your dog:
Remember to wash your pup’s bedding and blankets at least every three months to kill any flea or tick eggs and remove allergens. Use a mild detergent when washing and add vinegar to the rinse cycle for extra softness. Be sure to avoid dryer sheets since they coat fabrics with chemicals that can be toxic to pets.
Aside from arming your pet against ticks, your yard is also an area of focus. To make your landscape less appealing to ticks, consider the following:
- Since ticks often hitch a ride on wild animals or feral and roaming pets, discourage wild animals and other critters from wandering onto your property.
- Keep your garbage bins tightly shut so wild animals cannot easily access them. Keep the area around your garbage containers clean.
- Provide a buffer between your lawn and any wooded areas.
- Use woodchips, gravel, or pet-safe mulch to help decrease the number of ticks coming into your yard.
- You can minimize the risks of ticks in your yard by spraying an outdoor spray solution. Make sure you know what chemicals are in the product and ask your veterinarian for pet-safe recommendations.
When outside, try to avoid areas where ticks like to gather. These types of places can include tall grasses, marshes, and wooded areas.
Ticks wait until they find a host, such as you or your dog, on which to hitch a ride indoors. Once attached to a host, a tick can feed off of the blood for hours or weeks. Once done, the tick will drop off of your pet to lay thousands of eggs.
The following steps will make your home less welcoming to these disease-carrying parasites:
- Vacuum carpets and soft surfaces thoroughly
- Throw away the vacuum bag immediately
- Regularly vacuum areas where your pet sleeps and spends time
- Routinely empty vacuum canisters
- Steam clean surfaces
You should be sure to speak with your veterinarian about whether to vaccinate your dog against Lyme disease. Your veterinarian’s advice may depend on several factors such as:
- Where you live
- Your dog’s activity level
- Your dog’s overall health
- Whether or not your dog has already had Lyme disease
As we pack away our winter coats, our dogs do the same thing. If you haven’t been brushing your dog’s fur regularly, it's important that you start now.
Maintaining your dog’s coat is a great way to find ticks, lumps, or skin irritations before they become serious. Brushing your dog’s coat frequently will also keep it healthy and help keep shedding under control.
Examine your dog for ticks each time you return from a walk. Make sure to check under your dog’s collar, between the toes, around the face, armpits, and groin. Ticks like warm, moist areas, although they will latch on just about anywhere.
Do not use insect repellant on your dog unless it is specifically designed for animals as insect repellants can be toxic to pets.
Products for humans commonly contain DEET, an insecticide that can cause neurological issues in dogs. Signs of repellent toxicity in pets can include drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst, and lethargy.
Fleas and ticks tend to be worse during warm weather months. However, flea and tick season depends on where you live. In some climates, it is essential to treat your dog year-round. If you are unsure when to begin preventative treatment, ask your veterinarian.
- Since preventative medications contain some form of chemicals, the following is crucial for your pet’s safety and health while using treatments:
- Make sure to tell your vet about any other health conditions your pet may have before starting flea and tick medication.
- Always check with your vet before starting any flea or tick product.
- Observe your pet for changes and report any adverse reactions immediately, particularly if your dog is:
- A puppy
- Pregnant or nursing
- Taking other medications
There is no way to avoid ticks altogether. After all, you and your canine companion deserve to get outside and enjoy all the pawsome activities the outdoors has to offer!
The best protection against tick bites remains a monthly preventative flea and tick treatment that is given routinely. Follow up with a healthy dose of vigilance, and you and your dog should have many fun, warm weather days ahead!
Looking for more ways to keep your pup happy and healthy? Consider investing in a dog insurance policy with MetLife Pet Insurance.1 Get your free quote today.