Preventing ticks and Lyme disease on your pets
PHOTO COURTESY MRC VAUDREUIL-SOULANGES
The Black Legged Tick is a known carrier of Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease transmitted by the tick’s bite.
No question, ticks and Lyme disease are on the rise in Vaudreuil-Soulanges. “We have more cases so far at this point in the year than we did before,” said Dr. Manon Flynn, a veterinarian and owner at the Hudson Veterinary Hospital.
While Flynn once thought Hudson “was a little bit spared,” she says now people are starting to see more ticks.
“Rigaud, in the Rigaud mountains, they were the first ones to see a lot of ticks,” Flynn said. “In St. Lazare it's very pocketed. There are areas where people haven't seen any and others where there's a pile of them. The more recent case was one person who lived in the Vaudreuil-Dorion area, in the surroundings of the (veterinary) hospital. It's spreading definitely.”
The cases Flynn's vet clinic sees always involve dogs. She says cats are generally fairly resistant to ticks and Lyme disease. “It would be something to write about if we had a cat displaying signs of Lyme disease.”
Flynn says Borrelia burgdorferi is the bacterium that causes Lyme disease so if you see a tick on your dog, the first thing you'll want to do is remove it.
Tick removal tricks
To dislodge the tick, she recommends a small instrument that can be purchased for a couple of dollars online or in a number of retail outlets. Then it's a matter of getting under the tick, giving it a little twist and gently pulling it out, she said.
I.D. that tick, test for Lyme
“There's a website (eTick.ca) where people can voluntarily enter the ticks they find, take pictures and get them I.D.'d.,” she said. “It helps them to know whether they have a tick that is a transmitter for Lyme disease or not before spending the money on testing the dog.”
If you suspect the tick is the type that transmits Lyme disease and your dog isn't on preventative medication, Flynn and her team recommend testing eight weeks after the bite to see if the dog has contracted anything.
Watch for Lyme disease symptoms
Classic symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs can include pain, swollen joints and fever and “anything in between, where they're just kind of a little stiff,” she said. “I remember a dog owner presented her dog to me. He was old and she said, 'Oh you know, the dog is kind of stiff.' She just presumed it was old age when in fact in was Lyme disease.”
Ticks hard to detect, oral medication recommended
Ticks aren't always visible to the human eye, Flynn said. “Probably a third of the dogs that we diagnosed with Lyme, the owners never saw the tick. They seem pretty small initially and by the time you get to see them, they might have been there five days, they're fully engorged now with blood and that's at the point where they transmit the disease.”
She recommends medication to prevent Lyme disease, which she says costs $180 per three-month season and kills the ticks before they can transmit the disease. Before prescribing it, Flynn and her team ask clients about activities they do with their dogs. If there's a high risk, the medication is recommended. “It's a lot of money but it's safe and it works.”
After all there's a small risk "you could be the next victim." With ticks being hard to see, the medication offers peace of mind.