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Stories from the surgery: Tick bites and Lyme disease

Stories from the surgery: Tick bites and Lyme disease

Each month, Petplan vet, Brian Faulkner, shares his stories about some of the strange, funny and sometimes difficult cases he encounters in his surgery.

This month he reveals how the hot summer months mean a whole host of problems, but pet owners should be aware of one in particular – ticks.

As the weather gets warmer, pet owners must ensure that their dog, cat or rabbit stay healthy throughout the summer. Things like grass and pollen allergies can be extremely irritating and, in some cases, dangerous.

However, with the rise of temperature, comes a corresponding rise in the tick population. Tick bites can make pets feel uncomfortable and, if they become infected, can lead to bigger health problems.

Last month, a five year old Labrador, Logan, came in to my surgery with symptoms that were suspicious of the tick-borne illness, Lyme disease. Here’s what you need to know about ticks and their potential danger…

What are ticks?

Ticks are a type of parasite which feed on animals’ blood and are most prevalent during the warmest seasons. The symptoms of a tick bite are similar to that of a flea bite, however, because of the extra risk of tick borne diseases, the problems they present are different.

Ticks can be found in woodland, grassland and heath areas, but are also common in urban areas as hedgehogs and foxes are common carriers.

Tick bites in pets

Ticks climb onto your pet’s coat as they pass through the tick’s habitat.

Ticks then bite and latch onto their skin for one to two days in order to suck blood. Whilst this is a cause of discomfort for any pet, it can also lead to bigger problems – such as the aforementioned Lyme disease.

Symptoms of Lyme disease

Lyme diseases is a bacterial infection passed on by the ticks which can be identified by a number of symptoms, including:

  • High temperature
  • Stiffness of joints
  • Lethargy
  • Rash
  • Swollen nymph nodes

Although Lyme disease can lead to more serious complications (such as kidney problems), it is generally successfully treated with a course of antibiotics.

In Logan’s case, we were able to diagnose the Lyme disease and then prescribe him with antibiotics which worked well, especially as his owner brought him in to the surgery as soon as she noticed his high temperature.

Tick prevention for dogs and other pets

When it comes to treatment, prevention is better than cure. You should regularly check your pet for ticks, looking at their head, ears, legs and underside in particular. On walks, try to avoid woodland areas and long grass!

Ensure you heed professional advice on how to properly remove a tick, as if it’s done wrong, it can cause an infection. Special tick removers are recommended for tick removal and should be used with great care. Ask your vet for the right tick treatment for your pet.

Always keep an eye on your pet’s behaviour and seek immediate veterinary help if you notice peculiar symptoms.

Do you have any experience with tick bites or Lyme disease? Let us know your story below...

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