Studies have shown that the number of tick-borne diseases being reported is on the rise. One of the most common and prevalent diseases associated with tick bites is Lyme Disease.
What is Lyme Disease and how is it spread?
Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection that is transmitted through the bite of an infected tick. Ticks tend to live in tall grasses, thick brush, marshes and woods and will latch on to your pet when she passes by. Once on your pet, the tick will migrate to deep within her fur where it will attach its mouthparts to her skin and begin to feast on her blood.
One of the biggest misconceptions about tick-borne diseases is that they are transmitted at the moment that the bite occurs. In fact, this is almost never the case. Ticks carrying Lyme Disease usually only transmit the diseases on they have been feeding for at least 24-48 hours.
Ticks that are known to carry Lyme Disease include the blacklegged tick (also known as deer tick) and the western blacklegged tick. This means that if your pet is bitten by a different type of tick, you shouldn’t have to worry about Lyme Disease. Nevertheless, other ticks do carry other infectious diseases.
Lyme Disease can affect various types of animal, including domestic pets, as well as humans.
Symptoms of Lyme Disease
Unfortunately, Lyme Disease is a fairly common canine disease due to owners failing to source adequate preventative treatment. Typical symptoms seen in pets include:
- Loss of appetite
- Swollen joints
- Seeming stiff, uncomfortable or in pain
- Intermittent/recurring lameness
Humans may also develop a bullseye-shaped rash soon after the tick bite.
Prompt diagnosis and treatment of Lyme Disease is essential. Although it can be successfully treated using antibiotics, left untreated is can cause cognitive problems, chronic joint and muscle pain and kidney failure, which can be fatal.
Why are the number of cases of Lyme Disease increasing?
A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have shown that ticks capable of spreading Lyme Disease have been found in around 45% of U.S counties today, compared with just 30% in 1998. This shows that there are now ticks present in areas which were previously unaffected, meaning that people living in these new-tick locations need to be aware and take adequate steps to protect themselves and their pets.
But why are the number of cases of Lyme Disease increasing? Many experts agree that climate change is the biggest influencing factor. The last few decades have seen the U.S. experiencing warmer winters than before, and this is enabling tick seasons to extend much longer than usual. While ticks usually lay dormant during the winter season, higher temperatures during these make it much easier for tick hosts, and subsequently the ticks themselves, to survive the colder weather. Springs too seem to be starting earlier and this makes it possible for tick eggs to hatch a little earlier, again extending the length of a regular tick season.
Humidity levels also play a part in the rising number of Lyme Disease cases. While ticks can survive and even thrive in a variety of environments, most are more active when the humidity levels rise.
Finally, migration could hold some responsibility for the trend of Lyme Disease increasing. Migratory birds are known to transport as many as 39 million different neotropical ticks from Central and South America to the United States, many of which are more than capable of carrying tick-borne diseases including Lyme Disease.
Fortunately, it is possible to protect your pet and your family from the risk of Lyme Disease. There are a range of different preventative treatments available, and our veterinarian will be delighted to recommend the perfect solution for your pet. Contact our Birmingham, AL clinic today for further advice.