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If you enjoy the great outdoors with your dog, whether it’s a walk in the woods or playtime in the park, you know that it’s a great way to bond with your furry family member. But you should be aware that you also may be increasing your dog’s risk of getting Lyme disease.
Here’s a breakdown of how the disease is transmitted, how it can be treated if your dog does get it, and some easy steps you can take to avoid it.
Lyme disease is a fairly common tick-borne disease, meaning the bacterium that causes it (borrelia burgdorferi) is transmitted by a tick bite — in this case, the bite of the blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis) or western blacklegged tick (Ixodes pacificus), more commonly known as the deer tick.1
Usually, these types of ticks don’t jump or fly. Instead, they crawl onto the tips of vegetation like bushes or tall grass. When a dog brushes against the vegetation, the tick quickly grabs on and then makes its way to your dog’s skin, where it can bite and transmit the disease.
Lyme disease gets its name from Lyme, Connecticut, where it was originally identified, but it’s hardly unique to the area.2 In fact, it’s frequently reported in all of these states and regions.3
That said, Lyme disease isn’t limited to just these regions so it’s best to check with your vet or local health authorities to see if your area is at a higher risk.
If your dog is bitten by a tick and is infected with Lyme disease, they can’t pass the disease to you through casual contact like licking or being pet. However, the same ticks that can infect your dog can also infect you, so look out for any ticks that may have hitched a ride on your dog.4
One challenge with Lyme disease is that it doesn’t appear right away. The Cornell School of Veterinary Medicine shows that only 5% – 10% of infected animals develop symptoms, and these may only show up weeks to months after being bitten.5
According to the American Kennel Club, some signs of Lyme disease in dogs include:6
Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there. Lyme disease symptoms in dogs could lead to kidney failure as well as potentially fatal cardiac and neurological effects.
If you find a tick on your dog or suspect your dog has been bitten by a tick, consider talking to your vet. They can administer tests that can detect Lyme disease as early as 3 – 5 weeks after a dog has been bitten by an infected tick.4
The good news is that treatment is available from your vet for Lyme disease in dogs. Treatment includes prescribing a 30-day course of antibiotics to help fight off the infection. Your vet may also suggest other treatments to help your dog with related issues like joint inflammation or pain.5
With Lyme disease, prevention is always a smart move. Following these steps may help you keep your dog safe from Lyme disease.
Many preventative treatments for Lyme disease take the form of a flea or tick collar, a monthly chew, or topical treatment. Several of these are now combined with heartworm preventatives, making it easier and more affordable to deal with multiple parasites at once. It’s best not to wait for flea and tick season as early preparation and prevention is key.
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.
If you want to make a tick check enjoyable for your dog, combine it with brushing their coat. A good brushing can help dislodge ticks that are still in their fur. Washing your dog’s bedding in hot water and vacuuming can also help keep ticks from making your house their home. They can even survive in your vacuum cleaner, so make sure you empty it regularly.
It’s recommended 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:
Also, while Lyme disease vaccination has been shown to be effective, vets recommend it be used in addition to other methods of tick protection.4
Aside from arming your pet against ticks, your yard is also an area of focus. To make your landscape less appealing to ticks:
Whether you have an outdoor dog or an indoor dog, it can be a smart idea to protect them against Lyme disease. If you’re worried about Lyme disease taking a bite out of your budget, a dog insurance policy with MetLife Pet Insurance could help offset the costs of costs of vaccinations, antibiotic treatments, vet visits, and more.7 Get your free quote today and take that next step to protect your dog in the warmer months, and all year long.
1 “Diseases Transmitted by Ticks – Ticks,” CDC
2 “A Brief History of Lyme Disease in Connecticut,” CT.gov
3 “Tickborne Diseases of the United States – Lyme Disease,” CDC
4 “Lyme Disease in Dogs,” VCA Animal Hospitals
5 “Lyme Disease,” Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine
6 “Lyme Disease in Dogs: Symptoms, Testing, Treatment, and Prevention,” American Kennel Club
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