More information about Lyme Awareness Month......
The weather outside is getting warmer everyday and that can only mean one thing: summer is coming. It’s the wonderful time of year where sandals are the norm and backyard barbeques run rampant. Adults, children and pets alike begin to head outdoors to enjoy everything nature has to offer. However, the great outdoors also offers dangers to both people and their pets. That is why May has been made National Lyme Disease Awareness Month, a time for folks to learn about necessary precautions to take to protect not only for their pets, but their entire family as well. Here are common questions about Lyme disease and what you can do at home to protect your loved ones.
What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection spread by the bite of an infected tick. Not every tick carries Lyme bacteria but it only takes one to spread the disease. Humans, dogs and cats are all equally susceptible to infection.
Is Lyme disease common in Virginia?
The short answer is, YES! Loudoun County, in particular, has one of the highest rates of Lyme disease in the country. However, Lyme disease is a nationwide problem and can affect anyone, anywhere at anytime.
Where are the ticks that carry Lyme most commonly found?
Ticks can be found anywhere, but particularly in areas of tall grass and bushes adjacent to areas frequented by people and animals. High risk areas are walking paths, outdoor parks, and backyards with lots of landscaping or tall grass.
What are the effects of Lyme disease in pets?
Lyme disease causes a variety of clinical signs in pets that range from mild to deadly. If you notice swollen joints, lameness or lethargy in your pet you should contact your veterinarian. This is especially true if you have found a tick on your pet. If your pet is exposed to Lyme disease, treatment with an antibiotic is needed to prevent fatal kidney disease, crippling arthritis, heart disease and neurological disorders.
Is there a test for Lyme disease?
There are several tests for Lyme disease in pets. Discuss with your veterinarian which is most appropriate for your pet.
Is there a vaccine for Lyme disease?
Lyme vaccination is available for dogs. Make sure to talk to your vet about the benefits and risks of this vaccination. Unfortunately, there is no vaccination available for cats.
How do I prevent ticks from infesting my pet?
Topical flea and tick preventatives such as Vectra and Frontline Plus are effective at repelling ticks and helping to prevent attachment. Over-the-counter products are also available at pet stores but their effectiveness is questionable and they are not considered as safe as veterinary approved products.
Ticks thrive in high grass, so keep your lawn mowed short particularly in areas in which your pets spend time. Make sure that any pesticides you use are pet and people safe.
If my dog is vaccinated, do I still need preventatives?
Yes. While the Lyme vaccine is a great tool to prevent this deadly disease, like every other vaccine, it is not 100% effective. In addition, ticks that carry Lyme disease also carry several other diseases which can cause illness in pets. No vaccines are available for these diseases.
What if I find a tick on my dog or cat?
Be sure to check your pet for ticks regularly. If you find one, remove it in this manner:
- First put on gloves to prevent contaminating yourself
- Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible with fine-point tweezers
- Pull straight out without crushing or puncturing the tick
- Wipe the area with an antiseptic
- If desired, save the tick for testing in a container filled with rubbing alcohol. Clongen Labs in Germantown, MD is available to test removed ticks. Visit amccascades.com for more information.
Where can I learn more information about Lyme disease?
- PBS and Verizon On Demand will be airing the documentary “Under Our Skin” which investigates the emergence and threat of Lyme disease.
- Visit the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society at iliads.com for current information, recommendations and events related to Lyme disease.
- Visit the Loudoun County website at Loudoun.gov – once there, search for Lyme Disease/Tick-borne Diseases
- National Capital Lyme Disease Association at natcaplyme.org
- Turn the Corner Foundation at turnthecorner.org
- Virginia Lyme website at virginialyme.org