If you think Lyme disease is only a problem in the Northeast region of the United States, think again. The CDC confirms that Lyme disease is reported nationwide, and infected ticks are biting and transmitting Lyme to more than just people. Dogs can get Lyme, too. Read on to learn more about this potentially debilitating condition and how to protect your dog from getting Lyme.
What Causes Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria called Borrelia (B.) burgdorferi. It is found in the black-legged tick, also known as a deer tick in the Northeast and North Central U.S. It is believed that the tick acquires the bacteria during their larval feeding on infected rodents. In turn, the tick can transmit the bacteria to a variety of mammalian hosts, including people and dogs.
How Can a Dog Get Lyme Disease?
Lyme is considered a vector-borne disease. This means that the tick transmits the bacteria through its feeding activity or blood sucking. In order for a tick to become embedded in your dog’s skin and start feeding, it must come in contact with your pet.
Ticks can’t fly, they crawl. So your dog has to enter a tick habitat. Ticks prefer grassy areas such as fields, woodlands, and even lawns that need mowing. The very same places that dogs love to play!
How Often Should I Check My Dog For Ticks?
From spring through autumn, it’s a good idea to check your dog for ticks at the end of every day.
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Of course, this daily check is essential for dogs that love to romp in the woods or roll around in leaf piles. But what if your dog spends most of their time indoors? Many landscaped areas can harbor ticks, too, including groundcover plants. If your dog brushes up against these areas while walking or going to the bathroom, ticks can easily latch on to their leg.
How Do I Remove a Tick From My Dog?
Ticks can be found anywhere on your dog’s body, but they tend to gravitate to the head and feet. Ticks can be as small as a poppy seed, or as large as a raisin, depending on how long they’ve been feeding. If you spot a tick on your dog, first treat the area with rubbing alcohol. Using tweezers, grasp the biting head and pull it straight out.
You should take care to keep the remnants of the tick, as well as any blood, from coming in contact with your skin. If you have a cut, the Lyme-causing bacteria can penetrate your wound and infect you.
What Are the Symptoms of Lyme Disease in Dogs?
When your dog has Lyme disease, he may suffer from a fever and show less interest in food. Other common symptoms include joint swelling and difficulty walking. If you think your dog may have Lyme, visit your veterinarian. With a diagnosis of Lyme, the typical treatment involves a course of antibiotics.
How Can I Protect My Dog From Lyme?
There are many products available to protect your dog from Lyme. Ask your veterinarian if your pet is a good candidate for the Lyme vaccination. It is typically given to dogs 12 weeks of age or older who live in areas where Lyme disease is prevalent.
After an initial two vaccines approximately one month apart, an annual booster is given after that. You should consider other preventative measures, as well. There are many options when it comes to collars, topical products, and sprays. However, these tick repellents often contain chemicals.
If you are in search of a plant-based, natural tick repellent, LymeDisease.org reports that rose geranium essential oil is worth a try. Combine up to 25 drops of rose geranium oil with two tablespoons of almond or vegetable oil.
This mixture will keep for up to six months. Using an eyedropper or a spray bottle, apply a small amount behind your dog’s ears, along with their spine, and where their tail meets their body.
You can also place drops on your dog’s collar. Take care to keep the mixture on your dog’s hair, as applying it directly to their skin may cause irritation in some dogs. If your dog is frequently outdoors and you live in a high-tick area, reapply several times a week.