Vet charity PDSA has reported an increase in Lyme Disease in dogs by almost 560 percent in the last six years and is urging owners to check for tick bites.
Lyme Disease (Borreliosis) is caused by ticks – blood sucking parasites found in woodlands and long grass. It can lead to symptoms in pets such as fever, pain and swelling in the joints, crippling arthritis, nerve damage and even meningitis – which are similar to human symptoms.
In 2015, PDSA vets reported seeing around 100 cases of suspected or confirmed Lyme Disease – in 2009 there were just 15 cases. The NHS has also reported a rise in the number of human cases which rose from 268 in 2001 to 959 in 2011. The rise is thought to be driven by climate change and warmer winters.
PDSA vet Vicki Larkham-Jones said, “These figures are incredibly worrying because Lyme Disease can be a very serious, debilitating condition that can cause long-term problems if left untreated.“Caught early, the disease can usually be effectively treated with long-term antibiotics. However, owners may not even be aware that their animal has been bitten by a tick, so they need to be vigilant.”
If you do spot a tick, on yourself or your pet, it’s important to remove as soon as the risk of the disease transmitting increases the longer they are on the skin. Seek the advice of your vet on removal tick as leaving parts of the tick in the skin can lead to infection. Do not crush or squeeze the tick’s body. Specialist tick tweezers can be purchased but speak to your vet or a qualified vet for guidance on how to use these.
Tick-bite prevention tips from PDSA:
- 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 or boots, 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