As the seasons shift from winter to spring and summer, and with April designated as Prevent Lyme Disease in Dogs Month, it’s an opportune moment to address the issue of ticks and tick-borne diseases. With the rise in temperatures and the increasing allure of outdoor activities, it’s crucial to recognize that ticks are emerging from their winter dormancy, concealed within leafy debris, and transitioning into their active feeding phase.

Deer ticks, also recognized as black-legged ticks, spring into action once temperatures exceed 39°F, maintaining their activity levels throughout the seasons, even lingering on warm winter days. These ticks harbor the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which is responsible for Lyme disease—a tick-borne illness that induces painful lameness in dogs.

Transmission of Lyme disease to dogs occurs through the bite of a deer tick. Upon entering the bloodstream, the Lyme disease-causing bacteria disseminate throughout various body parts, commonly settling in the joints and kidneys. While not all deer ticks carry the Lyme disease-causing bacteria, certain regions pose elevated risks, you may be in that region.

Crucially, dogs cannot transmit Lyme disease to each other or to humans; infection arises solely from a tick bite.

In dogs, symptoms of Lyme disease may manifest 2-5 months post-infection. Lameness and joint discomfort, particularly in knee and elbow joints, typically herald the onset of Lyme disease. This lameness may exhibit a migratory pattern or occur intermittently, often accompanied by fever. While some cases of Lyme disease resolve spontaneously, others may progress long-term, potentially impacting the kidneys and heart, leading to fatal consequences. As some dogs display no overt symptoms, annual testing for Lyme disease, alongside heartworm testing, remains strongly advised.

Although treatment options for Lyme disease exist, intervention can prove challenging, particularly in cases of delayed diagnosis. Prevention invariably proves simpler than treatment.

You can shield your pet from Lyme disease by:

  1. Employing a tick preventive.
  2. Steering clear of wooded or grassy areas, opting for established trails instead.
  3. Conducting daily tick inspections and promptly removing any discovered ticks.
  4. Please remember that if you live in Monroe County, ticks can be tested at the Tick Research Lab of Pennsylvania

When examining your pets for ticks, pay special attention to high-risk areas. Conduct a thorough inspection, focusing on the ears, eyelids, collar region, toes, tail, and underbelly. If a tick is found, swift removal is imperative. Since the Lyme disease-causing bacterium can breach the skin through minor abrasions, use disposable gloves before extraction. While juvenile deer ticks are minuscule, adults are more discernible, particularly after engorging on a blood meal. Use tweezers to grasp the tick close to the skin’s surface and steadily extract it. If you encounter difficulty or uncertainty, or if the tick becomes detached leaving the head embedded, seek veterinary assistance promptly.

Yours in Doggy Fun, Lisa Kirshner, President