Dog walkers need to be aware of the dangers of Lyme disease, spread by ticks found in long grass and woodland areas. It can be a devastating disease, but can be easily treated if caught early. Now that the weather is warming up, it makes a lovely change to be back out in the fresh air. However, it is vital that you know the signs to look out for and what to do, should you or your dog pick up a tick whilst out on a walk.
Ticks are tiny creatures that live in woodland and grassy areas, they are particularly prevalent if there are deer and other wildlife. They are blood sucking and bite into the skin to feed on blood. Initially they are extremely small, but swell as they eat, eventually becoming pea sized and therefore easier to spot and remove.
Ticks can carry Lyme disease and should ideally be removed by a medical professional. If this is not possible, they should be very carefully removed with tweezers or ideally with a proper tick remover, gently pulling without twisting in any way. when using a tick remover, you should insert under the tick and rotate 360 degrees. It is possible for the tick to be only half removed and to leave its mouthparts in the skin and this can lead to infection and will need medical treatment and possibly antibiotics.
Never burn the tick off or try and use chemicals to kill it. Keep the tick in a container to show to the medical professionals so they can ensure has been removed entirely.
Cover up with long trousers and socks when walking in woodland and long grass and always check yourself, your clothes and your dog for ticks on your return.
Lyme disease in humans:
Lyme disease is a serious illness in humans, characterised by flu like symptoms, lethargy and aches and pains. 50% of people with Lyme disease develop a classic bulls eye type rash, which can appear on any part of the body and not necessarily where they were bitten. If you are worried you might have contracted Lyme disease, visit your doctor urgently. If Lyme Disease is diagnosed and treated quickly it is possible to make a full recovery, however it can cause paralysis, arthritis, meningitis and severe long-term problems.
Lyme disease in dogs:
But Lyme disease isn’t only a problem for humans. It is one of the most common diseases that is tick-transmitted, but only causes symptoms in 5-10% of affected dogs. The initial symptoms differ too, as they don’t display the same ‘bullseye’ rash. This means that you don’t know they have it until later on.
According to petmd.com, the signs to look out for in your dog are:
- Lameness, due to inflammation of the joints. One or more joints may be swollen, warm, and painful.
- Stiff walk with an arched back
- Sensitivity to touch
- Difficulty breathing
- Fever, lack of appetite, and depression
- Superficial lymph nodes close to the site of the infecting tick bite may be swollen
- Heart abnormalities are reported, but rare
- Nervous system complications (rare)
If your dog displays any of these symptoms, please visit your vet as soon as possible.
The best thing to do though, is to get into the habit of checking for (and removing) ticks on a daily basis, before either you or your dog contract the disease. Happy walking – and try to stay tick free!