New shocking statistics report a 560% increase in cases of Lyme disease in dogs in the past 6 years.
Animal charity PDSA saw 100 suspected or confirmed cases of Lyme disease in 2015, an increase of 560% from the 15 cases reported in 2009. However, this may be “just the tip of the iceberg”, warns PDSA vet Vicky Larkham-Jones, as many cases go unreported.
The increase in Lyme disease in dogs is believed to be caused by climate change and warmer winters.
Lyme disease can become a serious condition if left untreated, even causing nerve damage and meningitis. Look out for the following symptoms:
- inflammatory arthiritis
- swollen lymph nodes (located beneath the jaw or behind the shoulder)
- loss of appetite
If caught early, Lyme disease can be treated effectively by a long-term course of antibiotics.
Lyme disease in dogs is caused by parasitic ticks that live in woodlands and long grass. The ticks latch onto animal or human skin and suck blood, transmitting the disease.
The UK tick population is on the rise and peaks between late spring and autumn.
The PDSA gives the following advice to pet owners to reduce the risk of Lyme disease:
- Speak to your vet about prevention – as some flea treatments can also kill ticks.
- Ticks are often found in wooded and moorland areas, especially in long grass. If Lyme disease is known to be a problem where you live, avoid letting your dog wander in deep undergrowth or grass, stick to paths. Always wear long trousers tucked into socks and long sleeves to help protect yourself when walking in these areas too.
- After walking your dog, always check for ticks. They can’t fly or jump, but they attach themselves to the skin of people or animals as they brush against them. Tick bites don’t hurt so they aren’t always noticed. The most common areas for ticks on pets are the head, ears, legs and underside.
- Hedgehogs and foxes are common tick carriers, meaning pets in urban areas with high fox populations are also at risk.
- A small percentage of dogs that have been bitten by a tick will develop Lyme disease. It can cause a rash, a raised temperature, lack of energy, lameness, due to joint inflammation and swollen lymph nodes.
- When they first attach, a tick may be the size of a small pinhead but, as they suck blood, they can grow to the size of a match head and may look like a bluish-grey, pink or purple lump.
- If you do spot a tick, on yourself or your pet, it must be removed properly as soon as possible. It is best to get advice from a vet before trying to remove a tick from your pet, as it’s easy to remove the body of the tick but the mouth can be left in the skin. If the tick isn’t properly removed it can cause an abscess or infection.
- Special tick tweezers are available to buy, but need to be used carefully, so speak to your vet or suitably qualified person for guidance before attempting to remove ticks with tweezers.
- Don’t crush or squeeze the tick’s body and don’t try and destroy the tick with a lighted match. Don’t put Vaseline on the tick as it may drop off but can still be alive to bite another victim
- The sooner you remove the tick the better – the risk of spreading disease increases the longer the tick is attached. Remember that Lyme disease is spread by infected ticks not from pet to person.
Visit the PDSA website for more information.