Summer is upon us. With the ushering in of longer days, looser schedules, vacations, and extra time outdoors comes the added worry of pests like ticks. If you have known anyone that has contracted Lyme disease from a tick, you know all too well the havoc the disease can wreak on a body. Let’s break down what the disease is all about when it comes to our pets, and then we can look at some preventions and remedies you can feel good about.
The Dangers of Ticks
Imagine you are walking through a beautiful field with your dog. A tick that has been searching for the perfect warm body is “questing,” or waiting on the tip of a tall blade of grass. As your dog swishes past, the tick latches onto your dog’s backside. Once there, the tick digs in using two sets of hooks and wriggles into the skin. In 24-48 hours, the tick begins transmitting Lyme Disease to your pet.
This is a scary scenario, but one that is entirely possible, and more likely during the summer months. It is important to be vigilant to avoid your dog becoming infected with Lyme Disease, which can cause lameness, fever, and/or feelings of malaise. At its worst, Lyme Disease can progress to kidney failure and can cause long-term issues in your dog’s organs and joints.
Lyme Disease Prevention
Of course, the best way to prevent Lyme Disease is to avoid walking in and through areas where your dog may come into contact with a tick. Ticks cannot jump or fly, but many tick species wait in a position called “questing.” They hold onto leaves and grass with their third and fourth pair of legs while stretching out their first pair of legs, waiting to make themselves at home in your dog’s fur. When your dog brushes up against the spot where the tick is waiting, it climbs aboard. Since your dog must get plenty of exercise, and summer is a great time of year to enjoy the great outdoors, we’ve compiled four easy (and natural) ways to head off and combat Lyme Disease and its symptoms:
- Inspect your dog (and yourself after walks). Check these spots: between the toes, around the mouth, in the eyes and ears, near the anus, and under the tail. If you do find a tick, remove it as soon as possible. As an added prevention, ask your vet to perform a “tick check” at every exam. Your vet will likely know the spots ticks hide and can do a thorough inspection.
- Use a tweezer to remove the tick. Grab the base of the tick as close to your dog’s skin as possible without pinching the skin. Also, be careful not to squeeze the tick too tightly, as you may crush the tick and make it more difficult to remove. Slowly pull the tick out of your dog’s skin, trying to keep it intact. Once you have removed the tick, check to make sure all of its body parts have been removed from your dog’s skin.
- Keep your grass mowed short. Also, refrain from letting your dog run in a field that has not been mowed. It is always best to keep your dog on a short leash whenever you are walking in a new place, especially during summer months when snakes and insects are at their liveliest. Ticks are most prevalent in areas where the creatures they feed on live--deer, rabbits, birds, lizards, squirrels, mice, and other rodents.
- If your dog contracts Lyme Disease, keep him comfortable. Your vet may prescribe medication to resolve symptoms, but there are other, more holistic approaches. One of the most common symptoms of Lyme Disease is joint stiffness and pain. Glucosamine sulfate can ease your dog's joint pain. Theresa Manucy, DVM, recommends the powdered form of glucosamine sulfate for joint health and mobility as a supplement to your dog’s food, however you should consult your veterinarian before adding any new type of food or supplement to your pet’s diet.
Stay on Top of Pet Health!
Before allowing your dog in areas that might have ticks, be sure that your pet is on preventative flea/tick medication. If you have a pet insurance policy with PetPartners wellness coverage included, you can be reimbursed for some of the cost of flea/tick preventatives! If you suspect your dog has Lyme Disease, it is important to make an appointment to see your vet as soon as possible. Staying on top of your dog’s health is the #1 way to prevent illness and disease!