Preventing Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is the most commonly reported tick-borne disease we see, and ticks are not just ‘up north’ or out in the woods. They are literally everywhere and endemic in Wisconsin, and it’s not unusual to see them all year-round! We saw over a seven percent increase in Lyme disease cases in 2016 compared to prior years, and with the warmer winters, a record number of ticks will be out there and ready to feed on your pets. With their furry coats and natural curiosity for exploring everything outdoors, dogs are 50 to 100 times more likely to come in contact with disease-carrying ticks than we humans are.

So what exactly is Lyme disease? It’s a bacterial disease (Borrelia burgdorferi) spread by an infected deer tick, passed through their saliva when they bite to feed on your pet’s blood. What makes this disease really frustrating is that its symptoms are so slight that many times you won’t even notice. Fever, lameness, loss of appetite, lethargy and joint pain that shifts all over the body only show up in about five percent of dogs exposed, while the majority develop no early symptoms. Your dog could have the disease and not even know it!

To make things even more difficult, the deer tick that causes Lyme disease (Ixodes scapularis) is incredibly small. Even if you are diligent about routine tick checks on your pet, the buggers are easy to miss. The good news is Lyme is treatable and can be cured–but catching it early is critical. Undetected Lyme disease can cause long-term, life-threatening health issues for your pet as it develops into chronic a chronic illness. Unfortunately, it can be fatal if Lyme progresses into kidney disease.

So what can our poor pups to do to protect themselves? Trust owners like you to provide year-round oral or topical preventative flea and tick medication. This is the best weapon you have against ticks and Lyme disease, and they are fast and convenient to give. In addition to preventative medications, we strongly recommend yearly heartworm testing because it also screens for tick-related disease. This way, even if your pet is on preventative medications and does contract Lyme–yes, it happens more than you think—it’s caught early and is easily treatable. It’s true what they say—an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.