- Lyme disease is an infectious disease that is caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, which is found in several varieties of ticks.
- The disease is transmitted when a tick carrying the bacteria bites a dog—or human—and feasts on the host’s blood for 36 – 48 hours.
- Ticks are second only to mosquitoes in disease transmission.
- Ticks don’t jump, fly, or drop from trees onto your head and back.
- Ticks can be active in the winter.
- Vaccinate your dog. If you live in a high-risk region, ask your vet about the latest generation of Lyme disease vaccinations.
- Avoid areas that are likely to be tick infested. During the seasons when ticks are active, try to avoid taking your dog into heavily wooded areas or other places where large deer populations live.
Ticks are classified as arthropods (insects). There are over 500 species of ticks worldwide. Currently, more than 25 species of ticks have been identified in Pennsylvania. Of these, there are four species that are the most common in Pennsylvania: 1) the American dog tick, 2) the blacklegged tick, 3) the lone star tick, and 4) a ground hog tick.
A tick’s life cycle is: the eggs hatch into larvae, which molt into nymphs, which molt into adults, which mate and produce eggs after a blood meal.
Many species of ticks can transmit diseases (zoonosis) from an infected host to other uninfected hosts. Some of the more frequently transmitted organisms include parasitic worms, viruses, bacteria, spirochetes and rickettsia. The most important of these to Pennsylvanians are spirochetes which cause Lyme disease and rickettsia which cause Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Ticks do not jump, fly or repel on silk threads from over hanging vegetation. They acquire their hosts through direct contact when the host brushes against the vegetation harboring the ticks or when it returns to the infected nest. Ticks may crawl short distances to attain a passive host.
It is the most commonly encountered tick in Pennsylvania and occurs in most counties. American dog ticks are the major carrier of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which is less common than Lyme disease, but a potentially more serious illness.
Black legged tick:
This tick is well known as the vector of Lyme disease. The Deer tick is member of this group. The blacklegged tick typically requires in excess of 24 hours of attachment before it can transmit the agent for Lyme disease. This tick changes its appearance as it feeds on its hosts, which can make it hard to identify. This photo shows the different stages of appearance.
- Check your pet daily for ticks by thoroughly feeling for any lumps under the hair. Pay close attention to ears, around face, eyes, legs, and belly.
- When is tick is found embedded in the skin, use a fine pointed tweezers or tick remover tool at the point of attachment, and grasp the tick head firmly and as close to the skin as possible. Remember to wear latex gloves when doing this.
- Using slow, steady, and firm traction, pull the tick straight out from the skin. Some tools, such as the Tick Twister, recommend a circular twist motion while pulling.
- It is critical to NOT squeeze the tick body at any time — this can inject more potential pathogens into you or your pet while the tick is embedded.
- Cleanse the skin with mild soap and water.
- If a small part of the tick breaks off, you can try to remove it as you would a splinter, but it is probably best to leave it alone. The body will ‘eject’ it in time.
- Place the tick in a jar of alcohol, noting the date, in case of future illness. Tick identification and location of tick infestation will be important for your veterinarian.
Symptoms of Lyme disease:
- Lameness due to inflammation of the joints and severe pain (lameness in dogs can occur anywhere from 2 – 5 months after tick exposure)
- Joints sensitive to touch
- Lack of appetite
- Fever and lethargy
- Difficulty breathing
- Kidney problems, which if left untreated can lead to kidney failure, vomiting, diarrhea, increased urination and thirst.
- Walking stiff
Treatment for dogs with Lyme disease:
Like in humans, dogs are treated with antibiotics. Chances are your vet will prescribe an antibiotic containing penicillin (amoxicillin or ceftriaxone). In most cases, the Lyme disease symptoms will go away and are rarely chronic. It is important that you keep your dog warm and dry and limit his activity until the symptoms have improved.
Research has shown that dogs cannot give Lyme disease to humans. Have your dog vaccinated against Lyme disease and use a spray, collar, or spot-on topical products to kill and repel the ticks. Groom him often and remove any ticks by hand. Prevention is always best. Ask your veterinarian for information on which prevention treatments are best for you and your dog.
Jeri Wagner is a canine behavioral therapist and master trainer. Jeri uses a natural training system leveraging the same communication methods – body language and voice control – that dogs follow as part of their instinctive pack mentality. Training takes place in the home where the problems generally occur. Jeri trains in western Montgomery County, northern Chester County and eastern Berks County. For more information, call 1-877-500 BARK (2275) or visit www.barkbusters.com.
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