Monday, May 16, 2016

Lyme Disease


I am an animal lover and, though I am not fond of spiders or other creepy-crawlies, I will try my best not to hurt them.  The one exception is ticks.  If you are like me and have felt or seen one crawling on you or your dog or, worse yet, had to extract its stubborn little body, you know exactly what I mean.  These small blood suckers are nasty and transmit serious diseases to both people and pets.  One of those ailments transmitted is Lyme disease.  April has been designated ‘National Prevent Lyme Disease in Dogs’ month by the American Lyme Disease Foundation (http://www.aldf.com/).

I am happy to report that, according to the California Department of Public Health for the years 2004 through 2013, there were zero confirmed cases of Lyme disease reported in Tehama County.  Unfortunately, the neighboring counties of Butte, Shasta, Mendocino, and Trinity did not do as well.  However, do not rest easy, because besides the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, ticks can transmit at least eight other microbial agents, such as those causing relapsing fever, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia, Colorado tick fever, or babesiosis.  Evidence also indicates that the deer tick and the western black-legged tick, the same ticks that transmit Lyme disease, are the transmitters of Anaplasmosis, a potentially fatal disease which can infect both people and pets. 

If you or your dog are often outdoors, you can reduce the risk of disease by taking a few simple precautions.  The first is learn how to recognize a tick.  The immature form, known as a “nymph”, is about the size of a poppy seed (1/25 inch long).  It has eight legs, a dark brownish-black plate on its back, and a light-colored, translucent abdomen and is most active during spring and early summer months.  Nymphs are often found on logs, grasses, fallen branches, low-growing shrubs, and among the damp leaves that accumulate under trees.  An adult is about 1/8 inch long, has long mouthparts, brownish-black legs, a dark brownish-black plate that covers the front half of its back, and a reddish-orange abdomen.  Feeding ticks can expand to almost ½ inch in length.  The adults are typically found in open grass or chaparral, along the vegetative borders of hillside trails, and other areas that have populations of deer.

There are several effective tick control products available.  Examples are: the Preventic collar, Advantix, Frontline, Vectra 3D and Promeris Canine.  Knowing what kind of product to use, and how to use it, is critical to the health and well-being of your pet.  Consult your veterinarian to determine what product is best to use.  Certain factors such as age, breed, and pet health affect type and the dose of the product.  If you do use one of them, watch for any signs of an adverse reaction, such as: anxiousness, excessive scratching, skin redness, vomiting, or any other abnormal behavior.  If you see any of these signs, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Even the best repellants may not prevent these little buggers from attaching themselves to your beloved companion, so a tick check should be part of your dog’s daily routine.  To do one, simply run your fingers slowly over his entire body, and check between toes, under armpits, the insides of ears, and around the face and chin.  If you feel a swollen area, there might be a tick burrowed there.

If you do find a tick on your dog, you need to remove it as soon as possible.  Since ticks can transmit disease to people, I would suggest wearing gloves to avoid any contact with your skin.  With a pair of tweezers, grasp the tick as close to your dog’s skin as possible.  Once grasped, pull outward in a straight, steady motion, making sure that you have removed the entire tick, since anything left behind could cause an infection.  Do not twist the tick as you extract it as this could cause the mouth parts to break off.  Dispose of it in a small container containing isopropyl alcohol, since the alcohol quickly kills the offending varmint.  Finally, cleanse the dog’s skin with a mild antiseptic solution of povidone-iodine.

Keep an eye on the area where the tick was attached to see if an infection develops.  In addition, watch for possible symptoms of tick-borne diseases.  Lyme disease can be difficult to distinguish from Anaplasmosis because symptoms are very similar.  Symptoms could include lameness, decreased activity, joint swelling, fever, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, loss of appetite and neurological problems. 

Additional information can be found at the American Veterinary Medical Association (https://www.avma.org/public/PetCare/Pages/lyme-disease.aspx), and the University of California, Davis (http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7485.html ) sites.



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