Lyme disease is caused by ticks and can affect both dogs and humans – it is very rarely found in cats. Ticks are prevalent throughout the year but show increased activity and questing behaviour in spring and autumn. As the weather warms and we increase our time spent outside, dog owners should be cautious. This blog discusses how ticks cause Lyme disease, the symptoms to look out for and how to prevent getting infected.
How do ticks infect dogs?
Ticks are most common in grass and woodland areas, especially if there is a presence of sheep or deer. They latch on as the animal passes and begin to feed. Ticks are very good at passing infections on from one animal to another by feasting on the animal’s blood. Once the tick is full, they will drop off, but they could have infected your dog, or you, by this point.
Once a tick attaches itself, it can take about 24-48 hours to transmit the bacteria that cause Lyme disease.
What are the symptoms?
Signs of Lyme disease infection in both dogs and humans are immune-mediated and vary from dog to dog, or person to person. Lyme disease can manifest itself in an array of symptoms, including joint pain, swelling and fever. Signs of illness can show weeks or months after a dog is infected by a tick bite – and several infected dogs never show signs of illness.
Symptoms of Lyme disease depend on the progression of the infection, but the following signs should be watched out for.
- Swollen joints and limping
- Loss of appetite
- Lethargy or depression
- Kidney problems
Vets can test for Lyme disease, but it can be difficult to diagnose. Blood tests will be performed to detect the presence of antibodies for Lyme disease.
In humans, it is important to detect symptoms early on, as chronic illness can develop if left.
How to prevent tick bites
There are many preventative products available that rapidly kill or repel ticks, reducing tick feeding and transmission of infection. These products all come in different forms, and some may not be suitable depending on factors such as, whether your dog is a frequent swimmer or bather. Speak to your vet, who will advise on the best product for your dog.
If you live in a high-risk area or are worried that you do, you can speak to your vet practice about administering your dog with a vaccine to prevent Lyme disease.
Checking for ticks
Vets recommend checking your dog for ticks at least every 24 hours, especially in peak seasons. Ticks are big enough to spot and can be found by running your hands over your dog’s body when you get back from a walk. A tick will feel like a small bump on your pet’s skin. Any ticks should be carefully removed using a tick hook with a twist and pull action. Alternatively, use sharp pointed tweezers in a straight pull motion, and be careful not to squeeze the tick as this will stress the tick and cause them to release toxins – increasing the risk of infection.
If you have any further concerns, discuss them with your vet practice and they will be able to provide advice on treatments and prevention.