April marks Prevent Lyme Disease in Dogs Month

Understanding ticks, nature’s small and silent predators

5 minute read

A white terrier mix dog with black ears wearing a red collar sits within deep foilage in the sun

As the weather warms and outdoor adventures become a regular routine, it's important to shine a light on one of nature’s most widespread threats: Lyme disease. This illness is prevalent but often misunderstood. Lyme disease is transmitted to our families –including our pets– by a silent perpetrator, the tick.

Ticks lurk in the bushes, on plants, and in tall grass waiting to strike their next unwitting victim. These tricky ticks often go unnoticed due to their stealthy abilities. Deer ticks, also know as black-legged ticks, are smaller than other breeds and burrow in the fur of an innocent, unknowing animal so they’re tough to spot. It’s good to know that not all ticks carry the bacterium that can cause Lyme disease and a bite doesn’t always mean a pet or person will get Lyme. Still, it’s impossible to tell by sight which ticks are infected so it’s best to avoid ticks and tick bites whenever possible.

April is Prevent Lyme Disease in Dogs Month, which means bringing awareness around precautions to help protect all of the wanderlust dogs and cats out there excited to explore the great outdoors. We’re here to put ticks and Lyme disease under the microscope so we can all be more informed and take precautions.

What is Lyme disease?

Scientifically known as canine Lyme borreliosis, Lyme disease is a result of an Ixodid tick, or deer tick bite. Due to the small size and difficulty of finding these creepy crawlers, Lyme disease often goes unnoticed. But make no mistake, these tiny ticks still pack a potent punch. An infected tick bite inflicts the dog or cat with Borrelia, the infection that occasionally brings with it sickness, giving the animal Lyme disease. While Lyme is not necessarily life-threatening, there are cases where it spreads to other organs, causing more severe damage to the heart, skin, joints, and nervous system.

Identifying Lyme disease in dogs

How do you know if your pet has been infected by one of these vampire ticks? Because ticks are so small and silent, it might be difficult to see that your furry friend has been bitten. Identifying Lyme in pets takes vigilance. First, it’s important to understand the side effects of the disease. When in doubt and if your animal has any of these symptoms, you should seek a veterinarian for further analysis:

  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lameness or stiffness, which may shift from one leg to another
  • Swollen and painful joints
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Difficulty breathing

Often, Lyme disease is discovered through blood tests and narrowing down the side effects. Since symptoms tend to show up about 2 to 5 months after the infection, it can be difficult to track the illness and identify it right away.

Lyme disease treatment in dogs

If the tests come back positive, there’s no need to panic. There are treatments for your pet to ensure that they’ll return to good health. Often, the vet will prescribe an antibiotic to help reverse the bacterial infection and discuss additional steps you can take to protect against ticks.

Be sure to show your fur baby lots of extra love and understand that it may take some time for them to feel completely like themselves again. “Walkies” may have to wait a week or two while your furry friend gets the rest they need. The most important thing you have to do is make sure your pet gets the proper treatment.

How can Lyme be prevented?

It all comes down to tick control. While ticks may just be the messengers, you shouldn’t show any mercy when you find these pesky critters on your pet. A great way to spot the tick before it's done any damage is to perform routine tick checks on your animals and family after being outside. When you find a tick, which could be disguised as a small dark dot amid fur and skin, pull it straight out with a pair of tweezers, then dispose of it. Do not crush the tick. They're inherently difficult to crush and their body fluids may be infected. Instead, flush the tick down the toilet, drown it in alcohol, or wrap it tightly in a plastic bag.

Lyme disease is an often forgotten illness that affects between 3 to 10 percent of dogs who are exposed to an infected tick in the United States. April is a crucial time to bring awareness to preventing our pets from the dangers of tick bites.

We’re excited to hit the trail and soak up the sun with our favorite furry running mates, but we need to stay aware of the darker sides of nature. Wondercide encourages everyone to learn more about Lyme disease to keep our pet pals safe in the great outdoors this spring.

Read more about ticks and other bugs that can spread disease here.