April is Lyme Disease Prevention Month. It is a scary diagnosis if your dog gets Lyme disease, but you can take steps to protect him (and yourself) from this disease that is carried and transmitted by ticks.
Many areas of the country are predicted to have a higher than usual incidence of Lyme disease this summer. The reasons vary from lowered uses of pesticides to higher deer population; deer are one of the major carriers of ticks. These tiny, biting insects can live on other wildlife incuding squirrels and chipmunks, but ticks can also be found in tall grass and wooded areas.
How To Protect Your Dog From Lyme Disease
If you live in an area of the country that dealt with snow and the deep freeze this past winter you're probably anxious to get out-of-doors with your dog, breathe in the fresh air and stretch your legs! You certainly don't want to curtail any outdoor activities for fear of ticks and infection. What you need to do, though, is be diligent in checking your dog for ticks after every outing.
Your dog doesn't need to be in tall grass or in the woods to have a tick get on her -- ticks can be found in the grass in your own yard. Talk with your veterinarian for advice on how to protect your dog from ticks and from Lyme disease.
Enjoy the out-of-doors, just do so safely! Here are some precautions to protect your dog from a tick bite:
- Keep out of long grass
- Stay out of woods OR if you go into the woods, talk with your vet and find a topical solution you can apply that will repel ticks
- Brush your dog, from tail to head, after every walk in the woods, or walk in your yard. Use a fine tooth comb or a tick brush. Rub your hands over every inch of your dog's body to check for these tiny, biting insects. Pay special attention to under his collar, inside his ears, around his eyes, in and around his groin, under his tail and at the tops of his legs
- If you find a tick, slowly and quickly remove it. Grab its body with a pair of tweezers and in a smooth motion, pull it out. Put the tick in a jar. Call your veterinarian and see if the tick should be checked for Lyme disease and ask your vet for advice on caring for your dog now that he's been bitten.
- Wash the area where the tick was with soap and water.
What are signs of Lyme disease?
Because dogs are the masters of disguise when it comes to pain and illness, you may not notice the signs of Lyme disease or you may simply think your dog is having an "off" day. You know your dog best and are her best advocate; if you notice she's not herself, give your vet a call. Before you do that though, check her skin and body thoroughly to see if you notice the telltale bullseye or a rash that could denote a tick bite.
Here are signs of Lyme disease:
- Sore, aching joints and mobility issues
- Loss of appetite
- Increased water consumption and increased urine
Exercising and spending time outdoors with our pets is one of the many joys of summer. Exercise keeps both your dog and you healthy and happier! Don't forget, when you hit the trail to take water, a water bowl and a delicious treat for your dog and for you.
Enjoy your summer!