Author: Dr. Clarissa G. Noureddine, DVM, MS, MS
Are you doing all you can to prevent Lyme Disease in your dog? Here are 10 things to consider in your preparations:
Year-round tick prevention: It’s not hard to convince people that ticks are out in the warmer months. So since the warmer months are here -go ahead and add tick prevention to your list for your pet! Many people wonder why they should bother using tick prevention in the cooler season. There are some good reasons. It’s hard to predict the exact start and end to our warm and cool seasons. It’s also possible for there to be some warmer days even during the cooler months. The black legged tick actually remains active above freezing temperatures – and remember, Lyme disease can be transmitted by the black legged tick.
- Tick checks: Check your pet regularly, especially after they have been outdoors, and promptly remove any ticks found. Wear gloves so you don’t expose yourself to any tick-borne disease the tick may be carrying. Avoid squeezing the tick and do your best to remove the head and mouth parts as you pull the tick off your pet. Visit the CDC’s website for more information about removing ticks.
- Vaccination: A vaccine is available to protect dogs against Lyme Disease. Talk to your veterinarian to determine whether this vaccine is right for your dog. If your dog lives or frequents areas where ticks can be found, this vaccine can add another layer of protection against Lyme Disease.
- Outdoor treatments are available that can help control ticks in your yard. Always follow label precautions. The CDC also recommends that you check with local health or agricultural officials about (1) the best time to spray; (2) the best type of pesticide to use, and (3) rules and regulations regarding pesticide application on residential properties. (CDC: Preventing Ticks in the Yard)
Yard Maintenance: Clear away leaf litter or other items that might be sitting in the yard (e.g. old furniture, trash) giving ticks a place to hide. Mow the yard frequently and clear away weeds and tall bushes from around the house and yard edge. (CDC: Preventing Ticks in the Yard)
- Create Barriers: Tick migration can be restricted if a 3 foot wide barrier of wood chips or gravel is placed between lawns and wooded areas. Also try to avoid placing play equipment or outdoor seating areas too close to the wooded areas. (CDC: Preventing Ticks in the Yard)
- Stack wood in dry areas in neat piles. This can discourage rodents from moving into the area. The transmission of Lyme disease has been shown to be related to mouse populations. Mice are very efficient transmitters of Lyme disease – they can infect up to 95% of the ticks that feed on the mouse (NPR – Forbidding forecast for Lyme Disease in the Northeast)
- Minimize the ability of wild or stray animals to enter your yard by building fences. This will also decrease the likelihood they will carry ticks into your yard.
Know Your Pet’s Risk: The Companion Animal Parasite Council provides information about disease risk for certain diseases in dogs and cats, including Lyme disease. You can check out the prevalence maps to see where Lyme Disease might be a risk, especially if you are traveling to a new area with your pet. You can look at the entire country, or cone down to a state or county – view the prevalence maps here!
- Know What Signs to Watch For: Dogs do not typically develop the bulls eye rash that some humans develop after becoming infected with Lyme disease. Symptoms of Lyme Disease in your dog can include lethargy, decreased appetite, fever, limping, swollen joints, enlarged lymph nodes, and shifting lameness. If you find a tick on your dog, monitor your dog for any unusual symptoms and be sure to take him in to your veterinarian right away if you have any concerns. Symptoms may not develop for weeks to months after infection.
Additional Resources on Lyme Disease in Dogs: