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Ticks and Lyme Disease.

It is that time again. As soon as the temperature is +4 C and higher we have to start protecting our pets.

Ticks that are carrying Lyme Disease are infected with a bacterium called Borrelia. Once a tick is infected with Borrelia it remains a carrier until it dies. Avoiding areas infected with ticks is the best way to protect our pets from ticks. Unfortunately Eastern Ontario is a high risk area for ticks due to the high population of White-Tailed-Deer. Although it is more likely that our pets contract Lyme Disease from May to September, it’s possible to be infected year round. Infection rates increase in spring and summer because the ticks are in their nymphal stage and harder to see.

Risk Areas:

Though it’s possible for ticks to travel anywhere by attaching to birds, people who live or work in Lyme “hotspots” have a greater risk of contracting the disease. It’s important to learn more about Lyme “hotspots” so you can take extra precautions to avoid being infected. Remember, just because you don’t live in an area known for Lyme disease, doesn’t mean you can’t be infected. Eastern and central Canadian provinces also share borders with Lyme “hotspots’ in the United States and are within flight distance for ticks catching rides on migratory birds.

Ticks live in some of our favourite outdoor places, like grassy fields, the woods, gardens, beaches and nature parks. Ticks need blood to survive, so they choose to live in habitats frequented by potential mammal hosts. Areas with dense deer populations are often Lyme disease hotspots. Despite the frequency of infection, Lyme disease awareness is still relatively low in the east. Check your pets regularly for ticks and remove the tick as soon as you find it. Tick removal kits are available from your Veterinarian.

Symptoms of Lyme Disease in dogs:

Dogs can be vaccinated against Lyme Disease. The vaccine is relatively new and controversial. Our Vet recommends that we vaccinate our 2 dogs because we live in a high risk area. It was in the news lately that the West end of Ottawa has the highest number of ticks testing positive for Lyme Disease. We also apply a topical solution monthly to protect them from ticks, fleas, mosquito bites and therefore Heart Worm. Common symptoms in dogs are arthritis, pain, fever, lack of appetite, dehydration, inactivity and swollen lymph nodes and joints.

Cats:

Lyme Disease in cats is rare, but not unheard of. Known symptoms include pain, stiffness in limbs and joints, lameness, fever, loss of appetite, fatigue, sudden collapse, a zombie like trance.

 Horses:

Lyme disease is very common in horses. Some studies show that 50% of horses in high-risk areas will contract Lyme disease over their lifetime. Horses are at a higher risk than other animals because ticks often go unnoticed. Adult ticks, which are present in the fall and spring, are the stage most likely to feed on horses. An adult tick is usually large enough to be detected during grooming. Ticks are often found about the head, throatlatch area, belly and under the tail. To reduce your horse’s risk of infection, check for ticks often and remove them quickly if found.

Common symptoms include: chronic weight loss, erratic lameness, laminitis (inflammation of the tissues inside the hoof wall), fever, swollen joints, muscle tenderness, eye inflammation, and stiffness.

Neurological signs include: depression, dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), head tilt and encephalitis.

Diagnosis:

It’s difficult to accurately diagnose animals with Lyme disease. In most cases, a Lyme diagnosis is based on whether the pet lives in a tick-infested area, has signs of arthritis or responds to treatment.

Treatment:

Pets usually respond quickly to antibiotic treatments. Be sure to follow-up with your vet right away if your pet’s condition doesn’t improve. Pets left untreated are at high-risk for developing Chronic Lyme Disease, which may cause kidney damage and even death.

 

 

 

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