Last week, I highlighted some of the pesky pests that can harm our pets. With summer on its way and our anticipation of spending more time outdoors, I thought it good to focus on one of the most prevalent tick diseases that affects both people and pets: Lyme disease.
Lyme disease in humans
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), about 30,000 cases of Lyme disease in humans are reported annually by health departments in each state and the District of Columbia. However, the CDC believes as many as 10x that number (or 300,000) could actually be infected.
The most prevalent areas for this illness are the New England and Mid-Atlantic states as well as the Upper Northern area of America, including Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. However, nearly every state has had at least one case in recent years.
Black-legged ticks, also known as deer ticks, are the culprits of infecting someone with Lyme disease. Symptoms of this illness include fever, rash, facial paralysis, and arthritis.
Lyme disease in pets
This bacterial disease gets into the bloodstream through the bite and attachment of a tick. The bacteria often travels to various parts of the body, causing problems in organs, joints and other areas.
Veterinarians recommend pet owners check their pets for ticks every time the animals are outdoors and remove the tiny, pesky creatures as soon as they are found. Preventative care is also advised. There are many anti-tick products available, so please talk with your veterinarian about the best choice for the area in which you live.
According to the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), symptoms of the disease in pets include fever, swollen lymph nodes, fatigue, loss of appetite, and lameness. Our animals, however, may not show symptoms for two to five months.
Veterinarian use two different blood tests to confirm Lyme disease. Treatment for the illness includes use of antibiotics for at least 30 days. Some experts believe 50 to 75 percent of dogs in New England test positive for Lyme disease.
Although Lyme disease is not common in cats, if they roam outdoors for any length of time in tick-infested areas, felines can become infected if ticks are not removed. Lameness is a common symptom cat owners may notice, but sometimes cats don’t exhibit problems if they are infected.
Can people get Lyme disease from their pets?
According to the CDC, “Although dogs and cats can get Lyme disease, there is no evidence that they spread the disease directly to their owners. However, pets can bring infected ticks into your home or yard. Consider protecting your pet, and possibly yourself, through the use of tick control products for animals.”
There are other illnesses spread by ticks to humans and animals, depending on the area where they live and the type of ticks that inhabit those areas.
These are serious diseases for people and animals. Therefore, do your best to protect your beloved furry friends and yourself this summer from blood-sucking, disease-bearing ticks!
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer and public relations professional who volunteers with various animal rescue groups. She enjoys sharing her books and her passion for pets and the environment with others.