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Ticks and Disease: Protect your Pet!

Spring and warmer weather cause ticks to be more active and they are attracted not only to us but to our pets. Deer ticks of the Ixodes species can carry Lyme disease, named for the town of Lyme, CT where it was originally found. York county has an extremely high prevalence of Lyme in both people and pets. About 1 in 10 dogs were positive for Lyme disease in 2020. Learn more about symptoms and how to protect your pet against Lyme.

Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria or spirochete known as Borrelia burgdorferi which is picked up by the tick when it bites an infected animal such as a mouse to ingest its blood, then passed to another animal when the tick bites again and injects the bacteria into the blood when feeding.

Borrelia bacteria is spread by deer ticks, which are about the size of a sesame seed when engorged. They can easily be missed in dogs and cats with thick fur. A simple blood test can tell whether a dog has been infected with Lyme or other tick-borne illnesses, however; it may take four to eight weeks from the time a dog is bitten by an infected tick to the time he tests positive for Lyme disease. A tick needs to be attached for 24-72 hours to transmit Lyme disease. Dogs testing positive for Lyme disease do not always display symptoms, but, if they are ill, they will develop a fever, sore, swollen joints and lameness. In some cases, dogs may also develop severe kidney disease or kidney failure. Patients who are not showing symptoms may not require treatment, but it is recommended to check a urine sample to see if there is any protein in the urine which may indicate inflammation. Dogs with protein in their urine or who are symptomatic are treated with antibiotics and pain medications or anti-inflammatories if needed.

Vaccines are not 100% effective, but combining a flea and tick preventative with vaccination provides better protection than one method alone. The incidence of Lyme disease in dogs can be drastically reduced by vaccinating your dog against Lyme, using a good flea and tick preventative and regularly checking your pet for and removing any ticks found on the skin. To remove a tick, grasp it firmly at the head where it is attached to the skin with tweezers or a tissue or gauze pad and firmly pull back and away from the skin. Try not to crush the tick or remove it with your bare fingers. If a small bit of the head remains embedded, do not worry or try to dig it out. It will not cause any harm and will be pushed out of the skin as the area heals. On occasion, a tick bite can become infected, so, if the area remains red or appears swollen, have it checked by your vet.

Ticks also carry diseases such as Ehrlichiosis and Anaplasmosis.  These are bacterial infections and they can cause fever, lethargy and symptoms similar to Lyme. Ehrlichiosis can also cause bleeding and anemia.  There are no vaccines for these two tick-borne illnesses, so using an effective flea and tick preventative is important to protect your pet.

Patton Veterinary Hospital offers several chewable and topical flea and tick preventatives for dogs and cats and a Lyme vaccine to protect your dog (no vaccine exists for cats). Keep your pets protected from ticks and reduce infections like Lyme disease.

This blog brought to you by the Patton Veterinary Hospital serving Red Lion, York and the surrounding communities.