If you live in the Northeast, Midwest, or on the Pacific Coast of the United States where deer ticks and western black legged ticks have long been prevalent, you are likely familiar with Lyme Disease and the damage it can do, both to people and dogs. But Lyme-carrying ticks don’t only reside in these areas, so Lyme Disease is something to be aware of no matter where you live. While many varieties of tick can cause different types of illnesses, Lyme Disease is significant because of its pervasiveness and potential for long term complications. As always, it is best to prevent your dog from getting ill in the first place, but if she happens to get bitten by a Lyme- infected tick, there are some things you can do to help her heal.
Lyme Disease Prevention
Ticks are parasites who live off the blood of other animals. They live primarily in tall grass, marshes, and woodlands, and basically wait for an unsuspecting person or animal to come by so they can crawl onto them and enjoy a feast. The best way to avoid being a tick’s next meal is to use flea and tick prevention all year round. Earth Animal offers Nature’s Protection™, a full line of natural flea and tick prevention products that safely protects your animal from ticks without using synthetic chemicals. Designed to protect your pets from the inside out and top to bottom, our system includes a Daily Internal Powder to boost immunity and repel ticks and mosquitoes, alongside topical spot-ons, repellant sprays and shampoo.
If your animal does somehow get a tick, don’t panic. Ticks don’t always bite immediately, preferring to find the right spot first. On dogs, ticks love to hide in crevices, such as between toes, under their legs, and inside their ears. Doing a tick check as soon as you get to your car, or before your animal comes inside, especially if she has been in a wooded, grassy, or marshy area, gives you an opportunity to remove a tick before it has the chance to nibble on your dog. If you see a tick embedded on your dog, use fine point tweezers to gently remove it by grabbing the tick close to your dog’s skin and pulling the tick straight out. Be firm but go slowly so that you don’t accidentally crush the tick. You want to remove the entire thing, preferably intact. If you pull only part of the tick out, or if you aren’t comfortable pulling the tick out yourself, call your veterinarian for assistance. If you have successfully removed the tick, place it in a lidded jar with rubbing alcohol. This will kill the tick and allow you to keep it in case your animal starts to show signs of Lyme and you want to have the tick tested.
Lyme Disease Care
Despite your best efforts, your animal may somehow get bitten by a Lyme-infected tick. While some animals may never show symptoms, the most common signs that your dog is infected with Lyme Disease include reduced appetite, stiffness, lameness, fever, discomfort, lack of energy, pain, and swollen joints. Since your dog can’t tell you that she is suffering, be on the lookout for changes in behavior such as limping, sensitivity to touch, eating less, and drinking more. If you suspect Lyme Disease, visit your veterinarian right away for testing to confirm. In extreme and long-term instances, Lyme Disease can lead to severe kidney disease, so you do not want to take a wait-and-see approach.
Treatment for Lyme Disease in dogs is typically a long course of antibiotics lasting four weeks or more. It is important that you follow the full course and give the medication exactly as prescribed in order to limit the possibility of a resurgence of the disease or long-term complications, such as kidney disease.
Antibiotics are powerful healers, but they do not discriminate between the “good” and “bad” bacteria in the gut. Any course of antibiotics, and especially a long-term course as is required for Lyme, can cause gastrointestinal problems. To help prevent this, talk to your veterinarian about adding a probiotic to your dog’s diet while she is on the antibiotics. A probiotic will help maintain a healthy gut, prevent or heal diarrhea and vomiting, and boost your dog’s immune system. In addition, be sure to supplement with Acidophilus, Vitamin C, and Echinacea to replenish friendly bacteria destroyed by the antibiotic.
Lyme Disease is common and, if left untreated, can cause significant health problems for your dog. However, with prevention and appropriate treatment if needed, you and your dog can still enjoy plenty of worry-free outside time.