Lyme disease is the most commonly reported vector-borne illness in the United States, affecting an estimated 2 million people. In 2014, more than 26,000 cases were confirmed in the United States - and while the summer is winding down and we’ve put mosquitoes to rest, the tick population this fall is expected to be one of the worst in years!
Lyme disease is caused when bacteria enters the bloodstream after a tick bite, and it can cause a variety of health problems. It’s not just humans that are at risk of contracting Lyme disease – Your pets need protection as well!
Here’s what you need to know about Lyme disease, how it can affect your favorite four-legged family member, and what you can do to reduce the risk to your pets this fall.
Lyme is a Big Concern in Maryland
Black-legged ticks, which have been recorded in nearly half of all US counties, are to blame for the spread of Lyme disease. In fact, over the last twenty years the CDC has recorded a 44.7% increase in recorded presence of black-legged ticks in the United States.
More than 85% of human cases occur along the East Coast, in states from Massachusetts to Virginia – meaning pets in the Northeast are also at a heightened risk. In fact; in New England, 50-75% of dogs tested may be positive for Lyme disease.
Unlike most other insects, adult ticks are not killed off by frost. While black-legged ticks are present in the Northeast in every season, they thrive in cooler temperatures. This means you and your pets are at risk of contracting Lyme disease through the end of October.
Where Can My Dog Catch Lyme?
The ticks that spread Lyme disease are common in the thick brush, tall grasses, and the woods that your dog loves to run and play in. Your pet could be at risk of contracting Lyme from a tick bite at the dog park, on a hiking trail, or just chasing after a frisbee in your yard.
It takes 48 hours of attachment for an infected tick to transmit the disease, which is one reason it’s crucial to check for ticks regularly and be aware of the warning signs in late summer and early Fall months.
It can be challenging to spot a tick, especially if your pet has a long, thick coat of fur. Use a tick comb to carefully check your dogs after they’ve been playing outdoors. Ticks are drawn to warm, moist places - so pay special attention to areas where fur might get matted and sweaty beneath a collar or harness.
Lyme Looks Different for Dogs
Lyme disease manifests much differently in dogs than in humans, and oftentimes, symptoms appear much later after a tick bite. While most people know to look for the notorious “bullseye” rash that typically symbolizes Lyme disease, dogs often don’t experience that symptom, making it much more difficult to identify.
In most cases, a Lyme disease diagnosis will have no impact on the overall health and wellness of your pet. Only about 10% of Lyme positive dogs will ever develop clinical illness. If your pet is in that 10%, they will need medical attention and antibiotic treatment to prevent serious kidney damage.
A dog that is suffering from Lyme disease will usually begin experiencing severe illness two to five months after being bitten. They may also experience a fever between 103°-105°, swollen lymph nodes, achy and swollen joints, lethargy and sudden loss of appetite. If your dog experiences a sudden shift in behavior, it’s a good idea to visit the veterinarian.
How Can You Protect Your Pet?
When it comes to protecting your dog from Lyme disease, our pest control experts recommends the following:
Make it more difficult for ticks to hide by keeping bushes and shrubs in your backyard neat, cleaning up leaf litter, and storing firewood in dry areas away from the side of your home.
Lyme disease is carried by ticks, but they actually pick it up by feeding on infected mice! Preventing rodents around your home can help keep dangerous ticks away from your family.
Work with a local pest control professional for preventative tick treatments to eradicate tick populations around your property.
If you find a tick on your pet, remove it with tweezers as soon as possible. Grab a tick as close to the head as possible and pull slowly and gently to remove it. Flush it or wrap it tightly in a tissue and throw it away to dispose of it.
Many pet owners in areas where ticks are common will use topical treatments like Advantix or Frontline for an added layer of protection.
Lyme disease can be a very serious condition for both humans and dogs, so it’s important to take preventative measures to keep your pets safe. If you have any questions or concerns on how best to protect your dog from Lyme disease, visit or call your veterinarian.