A Tick-Borne Tale: One Dog’s Brush with Lyme Disease

Ticks are nasty parasites known for transmitting a variety of debilitating illnesses to pets and people. One of the most common tick-borne illnesses is Lyme disease, which can create lifelong issues in dogs and people without proper prevention. Read on to discover how one dog’s brush with ticks could have been much worse. 

Tucker’s tale of ticks

Tucker is an exuberant Australian shepherd, known for his fluffy coat of many colors, piercing blue eyes, and his inability to control his wiggling hind end. A happy, high-energy dog, Tucker needed plenty of exercise, and would quickly become bored and destructive without proper physical and mental stimulation. To help Tucker burn off his extra energy, his owners took him for long hikes on wooded trails, and through brush-filled open land. Having graduated at the top of his obedience class, Tucker had solid recall, and his owners occasionally let him run off-leash in the open areas, and watched him cavort in the fields. 

One fine winter day, with temperatures creeping up into the 40s, Tucker was eager for a run, after being cooped up all winter, so his family headed to his favorite spot, to enjoy the beautiful day in the middle of the frigid winter season. After Tucker had spent the afternoon romping through the thick brush and weed-filled field, his family headed home, allespecially Tuckerworn out from hiking and playing in the woods. 

A few days later, during Tucker’s weekly grooming session, his owners pulled off two fat, juicy ticks that were hiding under his ears. Based on their size, Tucker’s owners concluded he must have picked them up during their earlier outdoor adventure, so they had had several days to feed on their precious pup. 

Realizing they must have forgotten Tucker’s monthly dose of flea and tick medication, his owners worried about the potential for Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses. To ensure Tucker was healthy, and to pick up his missed preventive dose, they scheduled an appointment at Acorn Animal Hospital. 

During Tucker’s appointment, our veterinarian evaluated the two tick bite areas, and decided to monitor them for infection signs. Tucker’s owners also wanted him tested for Lyme disease, to ease their concern, but unfortunately, antibodies can take four to six weeks to develop in response to infection, so testing Tucker now would be pointless. 

After that scare, Tucker’s owners armed themselves with a year’s worth of prevention, made an appointment for tick-borne illness testing in two months, and vowed to never miss another tick-preventive dose for their pooch. 

(In case you were wondering, Tucker’s future Lyme test was thankfully negative.)

How to protect your pet from Lyme disease

After Tucker’s tangle with ticks, his owners stuck to a strict schedule of preventive administration, and ensured he received his Lyme vaccination yearly during his wellness visit. Avoid worrying about the threat of Lyme disease in your furry pal by following these tick prevention tips:

  • Administer year-round prevention — The simplest and best way to protect your pet from ticks, and their potentially life-threatening diseases, is administering a preventive year-round. Some products require monthly administration, while others protect your pet for three months. Many products are multi-parasite preventives, and can protect your pet from a combination of heartworms, fleas, ticks, and intestinal parasites, so talk to us about the most effective preventive for your four-legged friend. 
  • Vaccinate for Lyme disease — While no vaccine is 100% effective, vaccinating your dog for Lyme disease will greatly minimize her chance of contracting the disease, if a tick prevention dose is missed. If your dog has never had a Lyme vaccination, she will require a booster one month after the initial vaccination, and then will need yearly vaccination to remain protected. No Lyme vaccination is available for cats, so prevention is more critical for your feline friend. 
  • Avoid brushy areas — Contrary to popular belief, ticks neither fall from trees, nor jump onto pets or people. Instead, ticks “quest”—they climb up a blade of grass or tall weed, and wait for their next victim, with arms outstretched. When a suitable host passes by, and brushes against the tick’s legs, the tick grabs on. Tall grass, weeds, and bushes make excellent tick habitats, so ensure your grass is cut short, and bushes are trimmed back, to discourage these pests.
  • Check your pet for ticks — Most tick-borne illnesses take hours to transmit once a tick attaches to its host. For example, Lyme disease generally takes about 48 hours to pass from tick to host, so prompt removal is vital for preventing disease. After each trip outdoors, thoroughly check your pet, and yourself, for all tick life stages, including tiny nymphal ticks. These bloodsucking parasites prefer warm, hairless areas, and you can often find them in your pet’s ears, groin, and armpits, or under her collar. Occasionally, they crawl into odd places, such as eyelids or the mouth, so check your entire pet thoroughly for any pests. 

Are you wondering what is the best tick prevention for your pet? Give us a call to discuss the many topical and oral parasite preventives, and for help choosing what will work best for your furry pal.