We live in a beautiful state with beaches, forests, lakes, mountains and fields. Taking our pets with us on hikes and walks is a way of life in Maine.  Dogs, cats, horses and cattle are at risk for developing tick-borne diseases.  White-tailed deer, mice, chipmunks, grey squirrels, opossums and raccoons are carriers of infection and act as a reservoir to ticks who then transmit disease to other susceptible mammals.

Pets act as sentinels for human Lyme disease. Disease is often recognized in pets before it is recognized in humans. Veterinarians in Maine are attuned to looking for tick-borne illness. There is a rapid test which veterinarians use for screening and specific tests are sent out to labs. Lyme disease has become part of the annual examination at most veterinary clinics.

Often times Lyme disease in pets is diagnosed when a pet is brought in to the veterinarian for general malaise, limping, lameness, acute pain ,loss of appetite and other signs that the pet isn’t well. There is more complete information at the College of Veterinary Medicine North Carolina State University.

Pets bring ticks indoors.  Practicing methods of prevention will help keep our four footed friends safe and reduce incidence of disease among their human caretakers. Giving your pet a flea and tick preventative can help ensure that an infected tick that attaches itself dies before transmitting disease. Lyme vaccines are available for dogs, but not for cats. Be sure to discuss the various protection elements with your vet so they can recommend one that is suitable to you.

While many people talk of “tick season”, we need to remember that Lyme disease is a year round health threat, even in Maine. When the temperatures are sub freezing, it is generally safe for your pet to roam. Ticks, however are a menace at temperatures just above freezing, even when the ground is still covered with snow. Keeping pets away from tall grass and wooded areas decreases exposure to ticks. Beaches are safe areas for dogs to romp although the tall grass in the dunes at the edge of the beach is a prime tick habitat. Use voice control to call your dog back to you if you see them headed towards the dune grass. Walking your dogs on a leash and keeping them away from higher risk areas is another form of protection. Remember to check your animals for ticks when they come inside. One pet can have several ticks attach in a short period of time. Ticks brought inside increase human exposure to Lyme disease. If you find a tick, follow the same instructions recommended by the CDC for safe tick removal. Incomplete or complicated tick removal can result in infection.

Scoop and Fine tipped tweezers

To remove an attached tick, use a pair of fine-tipped tweezers or a special tick removal instrument. These special devices allow one to remove the tick without squeezing the tick body. This is important as you do not want to crush the tick and force harmful bacteria to leave the tick and enter your pet’s bloodstream.

1. Grab the tick by the head or mouth parts, right where they enter the skin. Do not grasp the tick by the body.

2. Without jerking, pull firmly and steadily directly outward. Do not twist the tick as you are pulling.

3. Applying petroleum jelly, a hot match, or alcohol will NOT cause the tick to ‘back out.’ In fact, these irritants may cause the tick to deposit disease-carrying saliva into the wound.

4. After removing the tick, place it in a jar of alcohol to kill it. Ticks are NOT killed by flushing them down the toilet.

5. Clean the bite wound with a disinfectant. You may also apply a small amount of a triple antibiotic ointment.

6. Wash your hands thoroughly.

Please do not use your fingers to remove or dispose of the tick. We do not want you in contact with a potentially disease-carrying tick. A tick can transmit infection from 24 to 48 hours after attachment. If your pet shows signs of illness contact your vet.

• IDEXX on Dogs and Ticks

• The Lyme Disease Association on Lyme disease and pets


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