By Deb Young
Warm summer weather promises lots of fun outdoor activities, but increased time outside also ups our risk for encounters with some of nature’s peskier pests.
Transmitted by the deer tick and the western black-legged tick, Lyme disease is an infection of the tissues that often leads to lameness. Lyme disease can be very serious for pets. Symptoms in dogs are difficult to detect and may not appear until several months after infection. Also, symptoms may come and go and can mimic other health conditions. Cases vary from mild to severe with severe cases sometimes resulting in kidney failure and death.
Many dogs with Lyme disease have recurrent lameness of the limbs due to inflammation of the joints. Others, meanwhile, may develop acute lameness, which lasts for only three to four days but recurs days to weeks later, with lameness in the same leg, or in other legs. Better known as “shifting-leg lameness,” this condition is characterized by lameness in one leg, with a return to normal function, and another leg is then involved; one or more joints may be swollen and warm; a pain response is elicited by feeling the joint; responds well to antibiotic treatment.
Some dogs may also develop kidney problems. If left untreated, it may lead to glomerulonephritis, which causes inflammation and accompanying dysfunction of the kidney’s glomeruli (essentially, a blood filter). Eventually, total kidney failure sets in and the dog begins to exhibit such signs as vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, weight loss, increased urination and thirst, fluid buildup in the abdomen and fluid buildup in the tissues, especially the legs and under the skin.
Other symptoms associated with Lyme disease include:
Stiff walk with an arched back & Sensitive to touch
Fever, lack of appetite, and depression may accompany inflammation of the joints
Superficial lymph nodes close to the site of the infecting tick bite may be swollen
Heart abnormalities are reported, but rare; they include complete heart block
Nervous system complications (rare)
Tips to help:
Keep your grass mowed. Trim your trees so that sunshine reaches the ground.
Apply a good tick-killing yard spray insecticide to initially get the ticks under control. Ticks do not travel by crawling. Once they are gone, they will not come back unless other animals bring them. Spray when rain is not anticipated for a week.
Use a tick/flea control product on your dog. There are many in topical body-drop form that you can purchase from your veterinarian or online. My favorite is Revolution.
Check your pet daily for ticks and remove them with sharp-pointed forceps. Scrape or pick the tick from the pets body or grasp it as close to the skin as possible, if you grasp it by its mid-body, it will inject its contents into your dog. Wear gloves and drop the parasite into a container of alcohol to kill it.
You can’t catch Lyme Disease from your infected pet. However, if a tick bites your pet and then bites you, you can become infected. That is why eliminating ticks from your environment is so important.