Summer is fast approaching, and that means lots of quality time outdoors with your dog.
It also means you and your dog are at an increased risk of contracting Lyme disease. Why? Well, when you venture outdoors, you venture into deer tick territory.
Lyme disease can be very harmful to both dogs and people. It is one of the most common tick-borne diseases in the world, but only about 5-10% of affected dogs exhibit symptoms.
Those symptoms can include chronic lameness due to joint inflammation, fever, depression, lack of appetite, kidney damage (in more serious cases), and damage to the heart and nervous system (in very serious cases).
Young dogs are more likely than older dogs to contract Lyme disease. In the U.S., the disease is most prevalent along the Atlantic seaboard, in the Pacific coastal states, and in the upper Midwestern states.
Unless it is a very serious case, the treatment for Lyme disease in dogs is usually a several week-long course of antibiotics, and, if necessary, anti-inflammatories in order to relieve pain. Unfortunately, symptoms can sometimes disappear with treatment, and then recur at a later time.
Fortunately, Tufts University has come up with a few easy preventive measures you can take to reduce your dog's risk of contracting Lyme disease. Here are five things you can do to keep those nasty, blood-sucking ticks at bay.
1. Buy your dog a good flea and tick collar.
Tufts recommends that you do your research and purchase products that are endorsed by a veterinarian, and are safe for all the pets in your household.
2. Stay current on your yardwork.
The yard is a great place for ticks to hide, especially if it's left unkempt. Mowing your lawn and weeding regularly eliminate lots of microenvironments for ticks to live in.
In addition, leaf litter, especially that found underneath shrubs, is a favorite tick hiding spot, so be sure to clear it out regularly. Finally, keep outdoor trashcans covered tightly at all times. Open garbage cans can attract tick-carrying rodents to your property.
3. Inspect your dog daily.
Make a tick inspection part of your everyday routine with your dog. Feel around for any bumps in his coat, and if you feel anything suspicious, part the fur to get a closer look at the skin underneath.
Pay special attention to his ears, his neck, and underneath his legs. Ask your veterinarian about how to remove a tick properly, should you ever find one on your dog.
If your dog has not been exposed to the Lyme disease bacterium, he might benefit from a vaccination, according to Tufts.
Ask your veterinarian if a vaccination is appropriate. Even if you do vaccinate, you should still take other precautions against the disease, such as those listed here.
5. Protect yourself.
Ticks don't discriminate. They can just as easily latch on to you. So, use a good repellent, wear specially-treated clothing if you're going to be in an especially high-risk environment, and shower and carefully inspect yourself for ticks after you've been outside.
True, Lyme disease can wreak havoc on your health and your dog's. However, the good news is that by taking a few simple precautions, you can greatly reduce both his risk - and yours - of contracting this nasty tick-borne illness.
Tell us your tick preventative methods in the comments below!
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