Lyme Disease Awareness Month
May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month. Lyme disease is transmitted by ticks and affects both humans and pet animals, especially dogs. Lyme disease is caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. These bacteria can cause long-term health problems including joint issues, neurological signs, and skin problems.
Ticks are blood-sucking parasites that live in areas of long grass. The most common tick in the UK, Ixodes ricinus, also known as the sheep tick, has three life stages which all require them to have a blood meal. The tick larvae and nymphs are tiny and exceedingly difficult to see. If you have seen a tick on your pet, it was probably an adult. However, all three life stages can transmit Lyme disease. The Big Tick Project carried out in 2015, showed that when very carefully examined, one third of dogs was found to have at least one tick on them*!
Not all ticks will carry the Lyme disease bacteria, hotspots are the New Forest and Scottish Highlands, but it can be found anywhere. Ticks can also carry several other dangerous diseases, such as tick-borne encephalitis, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis, so preventing bites in pets and people is important.
Preventing tick bites is the best way to prevent Lyme Disease.
To prevent tick bites in people, it is recommended to avoid walking in areas of long grass and bracken, or wear long trousers tucked into socks if this is inevitable. If bitten by a tick, careful removal is needed to avoid leaving the mouth-parts behind. If you develop the characteristic ‘bulls’ eye’ rash, this is often a sign of early Lyme disease so medical advice should be sought as soon as possible. This rash is quite rare in dogs.
To prevent tick bites in dogs, it is important to seek veterinary advice on the best product to use. Visit our Parasite Prevention page for more information. No product is 100% effective, however, so it is still important to check your dog over thoroughly after a walk and manually remove any ticks that you find with a special tick removal tool – never pull ticks off with tweezers.
Wellbeing is a massive topic. What are some of the ways you can improve your pet’s health?