Lyme disease is serious business all year for pets and for humans. Since it’s National Lyme Disease Awareness Month, it’s the perfect time to refamiliarize yourself with all you need to know about it to protect your pets and your two-legged family members, as well!
Lyme disease is spread by black-legged ticks commonly known as deer ticks similarly to how heartworms are spread by mosquitoes. The ticks are vectors, meaning that they don’t cause the disease directly, but they can carry the nasty little bacterium that does: Borrelia burgdorferi. Deer ticks aren’t the most common ticks in the Piedmont region of NC (lone star ticks top the list), but their presence in any number is reason to exercise caution.
The reason Lyme disease can spread to pets and humans so easily is because ticks thrive in any environment with grass or shrubbery and especially in wooded areas. They hatch by the thousands. When they aren’t feeding on a host, they spend most of their time hanging out on leaves and grass waiting for their next meal to brush by and pick them up.
Once bitten by a tick carrying Borrelia burgdorferi, the good news is that it usually takes at least 24 hours for the bacteria to be transmitted to a pet or person. It isn’t instant.
First thing’s first: give monthly flea and tick prevention to dogs and cats. The thing to note is that when a tick bites a pet who is current on their monthly preventive, the tick will die. Because it takes at least a full day of feeding for Lyme disease to be transmitted by a tick, this method of prevention is very effective. Just be sure not to give your dog’s preventive to your cat because some flea and tick products can be deadly to kitties while being totally safe for dogs. Stick to species-specific products.
Next, keep your yard trimmed and tidy. The more overgrowth you have with grass or shrubbery, the happier the ticks will be with their home. Don’t spark joy for ticks.
Lastly, get in the habit of checking your pets and yourself for ticks after a day spent outdoors. Outside time is important for us and our dogs to get exercise, so it shouldn’t be avoided. We just have to be sure we’re looking for and removing any ticks quickly.
Lyme disease symptoms typically take at least a couple of months to present from the time of the offending tick bite. Some of the symptoms can masquerade as other issues initially, so it’s a good idea to be familiar with these.
If your pet has these symptoms, see your vet. If you recall a tick bite on them, don’t forget to mention that during your appointment. Lyme disease is usually treated successfully with antibiotics.
*Dog photo courtesy of Great Dane Friends of Ruff Love – Great Dane rescue in NC and SC