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Lyme disease in pets, learn what you can to prevent it

Ahh, there's nothing like the great outdoors. You and your dog have just had an invigorating hike through the woods and just before jumping in the car, you check yourself for the possibility of deer ticks. But did you check your dog? Lyme disease can happen in dogs just as in humans and they are being exposed to deer ticks at higher rates than ever. In some areas of the country, exposure can be anywhere from 40 to 100%, depending on the size of the nearby deer population.

If your pet does have the bacteria, how can you tell?

The first sign of that these pathegens may be present appears in the form of a rash which is not going to be easy to detect under all of that fur. Other symptoms of the disease are joint pains, lymph node swelling and a high fever. Your dog may begin by limping slightly with the limp getting progressively worse over a span of 3 - 5 days. At this point he will be so seriously affected by the Lyme bacteria he will probably be in too much pain to move. And since this affliction is called "The Great Imitator" because it has often been mistakenly diagnosed let your vet know you suspect your dog may have Lyme disease. There is probably a good chance that this is the case if your dog was running around happy just a few days before and is now feeling miserably ill.

The good news is that your vet can start treatment immediately with an antibiotic such as tetracycline and possibly some aspirin if the dog is in a lot of pain. Over ninety percent of dogs treated within the first week of obvious signs of this problem will respond rapidly to treatment with a tetracycline antibiotic. Be sure to follow the vet's directions. If your pet needs to take the antibiotics for three weeks, don't stop the treatment as soon as they start to feel better. You want to make sure that that nasty bacteria is completely out of your dog's system as there is a small chance of a relapse later in life.

What about Prevention?

First, try and minimize contact. Keep your lawn cut and clear away debris to reduce the areas where ticks can thrive around your home. Be careful where you walk your dog, especially in summer during the height of tick season.

Second, there are repellents and anti-tick medications but be careful not to use these at the same time - you want to get rid of the ticks, not the dog. Consult with your vet if your dog is on medication before applying any repellent. Some of the most commonly used anti-tick medications are Frontline Plus and K9 Advantix. These also repel fleas and mosquitoes.

A third option is to have your dog vaccinated against the disease. There are three vaccinations that have been approved for use in dogs. And while these are effective, keep in mind that nothing is 100% and there can always be adverse reactions to a vaccine. This is definitely something to consider if you live in a high risk area as a tool to aid in the prevention of Lyme disease in your dog. Learn all you can about the disease and get advice from your vet. Keep an eye on your pet and if he starts to show any symptoms, you'll know what to do.

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