Lyme disease wasn't much of a problem in Pittsburgh just 10 years ago. In fact, the CDC had zero reported cases for Allegheny County in 2007 (see map). Unfortunately, that's not the case today. Southwestern Pennsylvania is plagued with Lyme, thanks in part to our recent shorter, milder winters.
In 2012, we started seeing dogs show Lyme positive results when performing their annual heartworm test (it also screens for three tick-borne diseases: Lyme, Ehrlichia, & Anaplasma). The numbers of affected dogs have continued to grow, and it's now typical to see several patients per week that have been exposed to Lyme.
Our dogs are at risk, and so are we. Many clients have offered stories about their own experiences with Lyme. People often don't realize that they've been bitten by a tick until their doctor diagnoses an infection. Similarly, we frequently see dogs that test positive, and their owners had no knowledge of a tick attachment.
It's important to remember that even if your dog is a white fluffy couch potato, she still goes outside to "do her business," and the ticks are waiting. We can bring them in on our clothes, too!
What can I do to protect my dog from Lyme disease?
We recommend a three-point prevention method for our patients:
A few important points about choosing flea & tick products:
(Click the infographic at left to view full size image.)
What are common signs of Lyme disease?
Many people are familiar with symptoms of Lyme in humans: the telltale "bullseye rash," fatigue, & joint pain. Dogs don't present with the rash (and even if they did, it'd be hard to see under all that fur!).
Signs of Lyme disease in dogs are subtle at first, and usually develop several months after the tick bite. Early signs can include fever, lethargy, and decreased appetite. Clients commonly come in for an exam when their dog starts showing signs of joint pain and swelling.
Often, a dog with an active Lyme infection will present with what we call "shifting leg lameness." In other words, he'll favor one leg for awhile, then shortly after will limp on a different leg.
Although less common, Lyme disease also has the potential of causing disease in the kidneys, heart, and nervous system.
If you're concerned that your dog is showing signs of Lyme disease, please call to make an appointment, or request one online.
What do I do if I find a tick attached to my dog?
Sometimes ticks will attach despite our efforts to keep them off. If you find one, you want to safely remove it.
We carry tick tools that can help making removing ticks from your pets easier, and if you're nervous about taking it out yourself, we can safely do it for you!
Note that it is impossible to tell by looking at a tick whether or not it carries Lyme disease.
It takes several weeks after exposure before antibodies will be detectable in the blood, so if you'd like your dog to be tested, note the date of the tick attachment and call to set up an appointment for at least 6 weeks later.
How do I keep ticks out of my yard?
The CDC recommends creating "tick-free zones" by designing your landscaping to be unattractive to ticks.
What can I do to protect myself from tick bites?
Have more questions about ticks or Lyme disease? We're only a phone call away!
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