Friday, May 3, 2013

May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month

Governor Patrick has declared May to be "Lyme Disease Awareness Month."  Lyme disease can be fatal to dogs, and Cape Cod has one of the worst tick populations in the world. As you can see in the picture below, the ticks that carry Lyme disease are very tiny and can be difficult to find, especially on dogs with long or thick fur.

Here are some tips to help you protect your canine friend from Lyme disease:
  • Use a monthly tick preventive. Ask you veterinarian which preventive is best for your dog.
  • Consider giving your long-haired dog a seasonal trim. Ticks will be easier to see if your dog's hair is cut short.
  • Brush your dog with a fine-toothed comb after prolonged periods outdoors. This can help remove ticks before they have a chance to bite your dog.
  • Make your yard unattractive to ticks. Clean up leaf litter, cut tall grass, and clear away brush. If your yard borders a wooded area, use wood chips or gravel between the woods and your lawn to prevent ticks from traveling into your yard.
  • Have your dog screened for Lyme disease. At VACC, we test our canine patients yearly for Lyme disease (as well as other tick-borne diseases and heartworm) using a simple, in-house blood test. The sooner Lyme disease is diagnosed, the more likely the treatment will be effective.
  • Be aware of the symptoms. Dogs do not get the same characteristic "bull's eye" rash that is seen in humans, and often will show no symptoms of the disease. Generalized pain, change in appetite, sudden lameness in one or multiple limbs, and high fever are all signs of Lyme disease. Symptoms may not appear for 7-21days (or longer) after a tick bite, so be sure to monitor your dog closely in the weeks following a possible encounter with a tick.
  • Remove any embedded ticks right away. Transmission of the disease can happen in just 2 hours, so pull the tick out as soon as you see it. Click here for instructions on how to remove a tick.