Lyme Disease Part II (A Wakeup Call)
One of the pleasures of living in North Carolina is the pleasant weather that we enjoy. During our most recent Spring like weather (inspite of the calendar claiming that it is February), I have hiked, spent time in the woods, and participated in other outdoor activities more than I normally would this time of year. This weekend was no different except that as a result of my outdoor activities, I found an attached tick on my back (see picture above). The tick had been attached for several days as I felt something low in the center of my back but could not see it. I had my wife check the suspicious findings and she removed a very attached tick and found a large, very red rash around the area.
Being a veterinarian, my thoughts immediately turned to Julian, our Boston Terrier who likes to hike and romp in the woods, and my other canine patients that enjoy the same type of activities and the subsequent risk of developing tick borne diseases. In 2015, data from Idexx Laboratories showed that 1 out of 33 dogs tested positive for Lyme Disease in Guilford County and 1 out of 10 dogs in Rockingham County tested positive (tested with Idexx SNAP test). This alarming data only represents dogs that were tested at Veterinary Hospitals and does not account for those that have never been tested but become infected. The same year, there were 38 confirmed human cases of Lyme Disease and 192 probable cases in North Carolina that were reported to the Centers for Disease Control. In 2013, Allegany, Haywood, Guilford, and Wake counties were classified as endemic for Lyme Disease.
Though the greatest risk of being bitten occurs in the spring, summer, and fall, the unseasonable temperatures that we so often experience in the winter bring adult ticks out in search of a host to feed on. (1) This puts our pets and ourselves at risk. It is imperative that we take precautions for ourselves and our pets to prevent either from contracting this rapidly spreading disease.
For ourselves, the CDC recommends:
-Wear an effective repellant when spending time outside
-Check for ticks daily
-Shower soon after being outdoors
-Call your doctor if you develop a fever or rash following tick exposure.
For our Canine companions:
-Vaccinate against Lyme disease. Speak with your Veterinarian about the initial 2 shot series with annual boosters.
-Annual Seriologic testing as part of a Wellness protocol
-Use an effective Tick control product. Use one of the newer generation products that have higher efficacy and faster speed of kill for ticks (and fleas) than older products. Your Veterinarian will recommend a product that works best for your pet’s lifestyle.
-Check for ticks daily
-See your dog’s Veterinarian if he or she develops an unexplained fever, lameness, or other illness. Lyme disease can be associated with other types of illness including Kidney disease and can be a contributing factor to co-infections with other vector-borne pathogens. (3)
My recent tick bite experience serves as a reminder that we need to be more vigilant about tick borne diseases and take the precautions as listed above. Our pets spend most of their time in close contact with us and participate in most of our recreational activities. This means that they are at risk of developing diseases such as Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Ehrlichiosis just like we are. We only have a vaccine available against Lyme Disease but the use of effective tick and flea preventatives can lessen the likelihood of developing these preventable infections. They also significantly decrease the opportunity for these parasites to be brought inside to us and become attached.