Michigan summers boast beautiful grassy, wooded, and sandy scenes but that’s exactly where danger lies for pet parents.
Tick trackers at the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) are forecasting an increased risk of Lyme disease throughout hotspots in West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. Nationally, infections in both humans and pets peak between June and September.
Lyme disease is caused by Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria, which is transmitted by infected black-legged deer ticks. In highly concentrated areas such as the Northeast, 50% of deer ticks may be infected.
In humans, Lyme Disease typically is identified by a bullseye rash. In dogs, early symptoms include fever, recurring lameness, and signs of pain described as “walking on eggshells.”
“The most serious risk is when Lyme disease is not diagnosed immediately and has time to infiltrate the system, causing chronic kidney, heart, or neurologic problems. Irreversible kidney failure is fatal,” said Dr. Laurie Brush, founder of Heaven at Home Pet Hospice.
Since Lyme disease can linger undetected for months in a pet’s system and can prove difficult to treat, prevention is preferable to post-infection treatment. Options pet parents can consider and discuss with their veterinarians include:
- Vaccination against Lyme disease
- Topical flea and tick treatment
- Oral medication
- Combination oral medication
This January, Simparica Trio was authorized by the FDA to include the prevention of Lyme disease, and is the first combination product to do so. Nexgard also kills ticks before they have time to transmit the bacteria, which, according to the CDC, can take 24 hours or more.
Ticks feed for a long period of time, meaning transmission of the bacteria is not instant. For this reason, finding and removing ticks is critical. Prepare by learning how to check for, safely remove, and bag the tick.
If you don’t use preventative medication and you find an engorged tick on your dog, or if for any reason your pet shows symptoms of Lyme disease, you may wish to ask your veterinarian about proactive treatment with Doxycyline. The sooner a program of Doxycline is started after infection, the more effective it may be, though Lyme disease is known for resurgence.
There is also a test called C6 that detects antibodies suggestive of a Lyme infection, which typically reveals antibodies 3-5 weeks after infection.
So before you frolic with Fido in Michigan’s sweet summer, protect yourself and your pup!