Aah, Spring. The birds sing. The flowers bloom. And, alas, the ticks come out. That's a big reason April is Prevent Lyme Disease in Dogs Month. There are three main ways you can help prevent Lyme Disease in your dog:
- Avoid areas where there are ticks
- Use a tick control product
- Vaccinate your dog against Lyme Disease
To lessen the likelihood that your dog will come into contact with ticks, steer clear of areas where there is tall grass, especially in wooded areas. Avoid leaf litter, which serves as a favorite habitat of ticks. Also, discourage wildlife from entering your yard by not feeding them. Removing leaves and clearing brush and tall grass from around the house and kennel areas can help reduce the number of ticks.
Tick control products can lessen the chances that your dog will become infected from a Lyme Disease-carrying tick. Using a tick control product may not entirely prevent ticks from coming onto your pet, but their numbers will be greatly reduced. Even if you use a tick control product, perform a daily tick check on your pet. If you find a tick, remove it, and always wear gloves when doing so.
Remember, with any tick preventive you use on your pet, the ticks must actually be in contact with the active ingredient to be killed by it. For instance, if you only use a tick collar, you may see ticks attached and feeding on the dog, even directly under the tick collar. This has to happen for the tick to take in the insecticide and die. A good tick collar will kill the tick in 24 hours or less. This greatly reduces the risk of tick-transmitted diseases since it generally requires the tick be attached for 48 hours or more for the disease to be transmitted.
Lyme Disease vaccines can also help lessen the chance that your dog will become infected with Lyme Disease. Annual boosters are necessary, so now is a great time to schedule that appointment.
Even if your are diligent about avoiding ticks, using tick control and vaccinating against Lyme Disease, your dog still has a small chance of becoming infected. Watch for signs of Lyme Disease which include a fever of between 103 and 105°, lameness, swelling in the joints, swollen lymph nodes, lethargy, and loss of appetite. If the kidneys are involved, you may see increased drinking and urination. Dogs do not develop a rash as is seen in many people who develop Lyme Disease.
As you try to protect your dog from Lyme Disease - remember to protect yourself too! For more information, see http://www.cdc.gov/ticks/avoid/on_people.html.
Do what you can to keep ticks in check and then go out and enjoy Spring!