The sweet sights and sounds of summer are arriving and I wanted to give you some must know information regarding Lyme disease in humans and pets.
In the United States, Lyme disease is caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi and Borrelia mayonii, carried primarily by black-legged or deer ticks. Young brown ticks often are no bigger than a poppy seed, which can make them nearly impossible to spot. To contract Lyme disease, an infected deer tick must bite you. Here is a graphic from the CDC showing the size of various stages of the black-legged tick life cycle. As you can see, they are small!
Ticks are found through out the United States. If you are in a wooded, grassy or bushy location consider that ticks are present. Depending on where in the country you may be there is seasonality to ticks. If you live anywhere in the country where there is not a long hard freeze then ticks will be a concern year-round. Northern areas get a break from ticks in the winter months but ticks will be active as soon as temperatures warm above 40 degrees.
Hosts and Transmission:
Ticks feed on a variety of animals including: deer, dogs, rodents (such as mice), birds, and reptiles. Disease is transmitted from the bite of an infected tick to both humans and dogs. Ticks, which can attach to any part of the body, are generally found on humans in hard-to-see spots such as the scalp, groin, and under the arms. On our pets it is important to check them closely after they have been outside in areas where ticks are likely. Check between paw pads and in the ears as these are areas ticks do seem to attach to often but anywhere on the body is possible.
Rodents are the most common reservoir or tick-borne disease. The smaller life stages of ticks are responsible for the most human tick-borne illnesses in the United States and need to be attached for several hours to transmit disease such as Lyme.
Signs and Symptoms:
Human symptoms of tick-borne illness usually appear 1 to 2 weeks after the tick bite and include:
- Fever and chills
- Headache and muscle aches
In dogs the symptoms can include:
- Swollen or painful joints
- Decreased appetite
Prevention and Control:
Reducing your exposure to ticks is the best prevention from getting Lyme disease for you and your pets. To help prevent tick exposure and bites:
- Hike in the center of trails- ticks wait on plants/grasses/bushes. Ticks will attach themselves when you brush up against them as you walk through vegetation.
- Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass, leaf litter and avoid sitting on logs or fallen trees.
- Spray your clothing with insect repellant containing DEET or other EPA approved repellent- even just treating boots can dramatically reduce your risk.
- Carefully inspect your body, clothing, and pets for ticks after being in areas noted above.
Tips for finding ticks:
- Bathe as soon as possible to easily find ticks
- Conduct a full-body check for ticks
- Use a mirror
- Parents should check their children for ticks
- Examine your gear and your pets. Again, remember to check your pet’s ears and between the toes.
- Tumble clothes in dryer on high heat for an hour
How to remove a tick:
Lastly, for our pets it is advised to use a flea/tick preventative during the flea and tick season depending on where you live. There are newer generation of prevention products which are very effective.
Please, remember to SHOP SMALL! Let’s support small businesses. I realize it is easy to order online from a large retailer, but if you have some time, research and try to find what fits your family best.
Wishing you a safe “tick free” summer!
Dr. Glenn Buckley, DVM – June, 2021