iStock_000091288905_MediumIt is tick season here in Illinois, and you are likely no stranger to these creepy crawly critters. It is no fun to find a tick on you or your pet, but the concern goes far beyond a case of the heebie jeebies.

Ticks are known to carry a wide variety of infectious diseases, not the least of which is Lyme disease. So what is a pet owner to do? How can we protect our canine companions? The Pet Experts at Naperville Animal Hospital are here to help you learn how to recognize the symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs and offer some great ways to prevent tick problems.

A Little About Lyme

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted by the deer tick. It is caused by the organism Borrelia burgdorferii, which lives in the tick’s digestive system and becomes activated during feeding. Lyme disease can infect people and pets alike.

Because the bacteria must be activated during a blood meal, a tick must remain attached to its host (you or your dog) for several hours before infection occurs.

Lyme disease is endemic in much of the country, and the Midwest is no exception. We frequently diagnose Lyme disease, as well as several other tick borne diseases in pets.

Signs of Lyme Disease in Dogs

Because pets who have been bitten by a tick do not exhibit signs of illness right away, it is important for pet owners to know how to recognize signs of Lyme disease in dogs so that their pet can receive appropriate treatment. Once diagnosed, most dogs respond very well to a course of antibiotics. Symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs often include:

  • Fever (may wax and wane)
  • Depression/lethargy
  • Decreased appetite
  • Lameness/soreness
  • Swollen joints
  • Enlarged lymph nodes

Without treatment, the disease may progress and serious complications can result.

Lyme Disease Solutions

While thankfully Lyme disease is a curable condition in the dog, prevention is always best. Practicing good habits to avoid problems is the most effective thing that dog owners can do when it comes to tick borne diseases. Be sure to:

Avoid where possible – During tick season (roughly April through October), try to steer clear of tall grassy areas where deer frequent. If spending time outdoors, keep to the beaten path as much as possible.

Use a quality preventative – There are several very good tick preventative options available for dogs. The Pet Experts at Naperville Animal Hospital are happy to help you select the right product for your dog and your individual needs.

Practice your plucking skills – Because most tick borne diseases take some time before they are transmitted, good observation and a confident ability to remove a tick can be invaluable. Examine your pet closely, especially after spending time in a tick-prone area. Pay extra attention to the face and ears, armpits, under the tail, and the paws. If you do find a tick, remove it immediately using proper technique.

Vaccinate when recommended – We may recommend that high-risk pets be vaccinated against Lyme disease. Ask us if you think that your pet might benefit from this annual immunization.

Lyme disease in dogs is not anyone’s idea of a good time, but a well-educated owner can make a big difference in helping their pet. With just a little effort, we are capable of preventing Lyme disease and other tick borne diseases so that everyone can remain healthy and strong.