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April is Lyme Disease Prevention Month For Pets

female vet checks for ticks on panting dog

As if ticks were not bad enough, these blood suckers can also transmit a serious disease to our pets. Lyme disease is fairly well known in humans, but not everyone is aware of how it can affect our dogs.

April has been designated National Prevent Lyme in Dogs month by the Lyme Disease Foundation. Help your best friend by learning about tick prevention and how vaccines can help stop Lyme disease.

For more than 30 years, Lyme Disease has been a fear for people living in close proximity with ticks. In addition, ticks can transmit this disease to our pets. The month of April will kick off a national awareness of how to prevent this debilitating infection.

For most people, the fear and threat of Lyme disease came to national attention in the latter part of the 20th century when the bacteria causing the illness was first identified and associated with ticks. This bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, is found in many species of wildlife and has found humans, and pets, to be suitable alternative hosts.

Named for the city in which the first clustering of the disease occurred, Lyme disease in humans has been diagnosed in every state but Montana. It is the most common tick borne disease reported in humans in the United States.

But perhaps an equal concern for many is how this infection can affect our dogs, and even horses. According to recent surveys, dogs testing positive for Lyme disease have been found in every single one of the 48 contiguous United States. For many pet owners, it’s a danger for which they just aren’t prepared.

Although ticks can transmit many debilitating diseases to our pets, and us, Lyme disease is the most common and the best known of all these terrible illnesses. For people, Lyme is often characterized by a unique, enlarging rash, potentially followed by more serious symptoms, such as fatigue, severe headaches, joint problems, and possibly even blindness. In our dogs, intermittent lameness is the most common manifestation of this sickness. However, kidney failure, neurological problems, and even heart disorders can occur as well.

For many people and pets, antibiotics can help to kill off the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, but for many others, treatment failures occur, leading to longer treatments, potentially more health problems, and definitely higher financial costs. As an added worry, neither people nor pets develop any long-lasting immunity after the illness, opening the door to becoming reinfected again and again.

Fortunately, veterinary scientists and industry leaders have found ways to help minimize the risks to our dogs and help them avoid the nasty effects of this disease. One of the first steps is to create additional understanding about how this disease is contracted and how it can be prevented.

The Lyme Disease Foundation, in conjunction with Merial, has recently named April as National Prevent Lyme in Dogs Month. By kicking off an awareness movement early in the spring, pet owners can become aware of tick-related problems before the heavier tick seasons of summer and fall.

A comprehensive prevention plan can also help pet owners avoid the potential heartaches and pitfalls of Lyme disease. Helping their pets to avoid ticks and even vaccinating dogs against the illness itself are just two of the ways that we can help.

Many of the topical flea products provide protection against ticks as well, and highly effective tick collars are available through your family veterinarian. These products are especially helpful for nature-loving owners who enjoy having their faithful canine companion along with them on hikes, camping trips, or any outdoor activity.

Beyond keeping ticks off your pets, vaccination against Lyme Disease is also available through your veterinarian. State of the art recombinant vaccines for dogs have been created by leading veterinary pharmaceutical companies and can definitely provide an additional level of protection against Lyme disease. Created by isolating a purified protein from the outer surface of the Borrelia bacterium, the recombinant vaccine provides protection by actually blocking the route of migration out of the tick and into your pet.

Although Lyme positive dogs have been found in most states, veterinarians still believe that this disease is fairly regional in nature, and owners should have an open discussion with their family veterinarian prior to requesting the administration of a Lyme vaccine. Regardless of where you live, keeping ticks away from your pets can be a lifesaver.


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