May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month
Lyme Disease is the most common tick-borne disease affecting over 300,000 individuals each year. As the temperatures rise above freezing, ticks come out of the woodwork to find a warm-blooded mammal to feed on as their main food source. Any warm-blooded mammal can contract Lyme Disease from infected ticks but are most commonly found on the skin of white-tailed deer, mice, cattle, horses, livestock (chickens), dogs, cats and humans.
Because spring and summer are prime seasons for tick movement in the United States, outdoor hobbyists are encouraged to read the below information on ticks and tick disease prevention.
Where Did Ticks Originate?
We are quick to blame white-tailed deer for the spread of tick diseases in the United States; however, the white-footed mouse is the real culprit that carries the Lyme Disease bacterium and is known to carry at least 50 ticks at once! Researchers suggest that mice passed on the disease to deer herds and birds that migrated to different areas, spreading ticks to other wild animals. So, thanks for that...
Ticks are tiny, sometimes smaller than a finger nail or a dime; and they can be undetected for several hours or days if tick-checks are not performed immediately following time spent outside.
While there are five main tick species that make headlines, there are actually over 900 tick species roaming throughout North America.
In the Northeast region of the United States, the Eastern Black-Legged Ticks prevail and favor white-tailed deer and human blood. But, they aren't the only types of ticks causing health concerns among people and pets. In fact, the American Dog Tick and Lone Star Tick are equally as concerning as the black-legged tick.
The American Dog Tick gets its name because it prefers dogs as its main food source - although it is aggressive towards humans, as well. The Lone Star Tick has become a nightmare for meat lovers, as it spreads red meat allergies among other harmful effects.
When deer wander throughout the woods, lawns or gardens, ticks follow - along with tick diseases.
Other recreational activities at high risk of tick infection include:
- Horse riding
Symptoms Of Lyme Disease
Lyme Disease is a bacterial disease that is caused by a latched-on tick bite. Most individuals will experience a fever, headache, fatigue, muscle aches, and swollen glands – often confused with signs of the flu. Lyme Disease can often be misdiagnosed for this reason. And, while human reports are the most common, dogs and cats can also get Lyme Disease from a deer tick.
The most common sign of Lyme is a ring around the infected skin, also known as the "Bulls Eye" marking. Clinical illness in dogs lasts from 2-5 months; and can be treated with antibiotics like Doxycycline or Amoxicillin, if caught in the early stages.
Lyme Disease In Pets
Both dogs and cats can contract Lyme Disease from infected ticks. So far in 2019, there have been close to 80,000 of confirmed Lyme Disease cases in dogs with over 1 million pups tested. These numbers translate to 1 in every 19 dogs tested for Lyme have the disease. Yikes!
According to DeerbustersCanada, Lyme Disease in cats is less common than in dogs. Cats with a tick disease will experience lameness as well as the following symptoms: Lack of appetite, stiff walk and arched back, sensitivity to touch, difficulty breathing, weak bones/joints and arthritis.
If dogs are acting "off," they may have Lyme Disease. Here are symptoms of Lyme Disease in dogs: Unsteadiness, high blood pressure, loss of muscle movement, difficulty eating, lethargy, excessive drooling.
As with humans, Lyme Disease is treatable in dogs; however, there is no cure for Lyme.
Lyme Disease Prevention Methods
White-tailed deer are the most common carriers of ticks in the United States; and this is why homeowners should consider installing a 7.5-8' foot tall deer fence to rid deer from landscapes. The benefits of deer fencing outweigh the initial cost including: tick disease prevention; pet protection against wildlife encounters; and garden protection against wildlife damage.
Gardeners can plant deer-resistant flowers and herbs in the yard and apply tick sprays and deer repellents to the yard to also rid deer from lawns.
When outside, individuals are encouraged to wear [bright] long-sleeve clothing to easily spot ticks; spray tick repellents along their ankles; and perform thorough tick-checks directly after playtime. Outdoor enthusiasts should carry tick remover tools with them in case they discover ticks during hiking and camping trips.
Get Involved In Lyme Disease Awareness
There are many ways to get involved this Lyme Disease Awareness Month. Here are just a few ideas:
Check out local 5K run/walks in your area that raise awareness of #Lyme.
Join a workshop to learn about Lyme Disease prevention strategies.
Share stories about Lyme Disease testing and health after the tick bite.
Join the conversation on @Deerbusters Facebook using hashtags #Lyme, #LymeDisease #LymeDiseaseAwareness.