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How to Protect Your Dog and Family From Tick-Borne Disease

(ARA) - Playing outside with the family dog is a joy during the warm weather. Whether you’re running in a park or just playing catch in your own backyard, dogs offer companionship and delight. But with tick-borne diseases on the rise, dog owners need to be vigilant about making sure an unnoticed tick doesn’t make their furry family member sick. The extra effort could make the difference in keeping the whole family healthy.

More than just Lyme disease, other tick-transmitted infections are becoming an increasingly important health matter for urban and suburban dogs in all areas of the country. Tick-borne diseases are present as much in the backyard as they are in the back country.

“The range and density of several tick species in North America are expanding as a result of climactic changes, wildlife populations and conservation efforts,” explains Michael Dryden, DVM, a Kansas State University professor of veterinary parasitology. “Reforestation, changes in agricultural practices and wildlife conservation efforts have contributed to an explosive growth in deer populations – a key factor in the expansion of several tick species’ habitats.”

As cities and towns continue expanding, animals that host ticks are coming into metro areas because they’re good places for both feeding and breeding, explains Pat Smith, president of the Lyme Disease Association (LDA).

“Children, ages five to nine, are at the highest risk of acquiring Lyme disease,” said Smith. “Since dogs play in some of the same areas as our children, we pet owners need to monitor our dogs’ health so we can better protect our children and ourselves in the process.”

Not Just Lyme

Some ticks can transit multiple diseases with one bite. This affects not only pets, but means the entire family is more susceptible — children and adults. Here are some of the most common and dangerous tick diseases that can affect your pet:

* Lyme disease is transmitted by black-legged (deer) ticks. The most common visible signs of Lyme disease infection are recurrent arthritis and lameness that lasts for three to four days, sometimes accompanied by loss of appetite and depression.

* Canine ehrlichiosis is commonly transmitted by the brown dog tick and the lone star tick. Early stage symptoms may include fever, lack of appetite, depression and weight loss.

* Canine anaplasmosis is sometimes referred to as dog fever and is transmitted by the same vector that carries Lyme disease, the black-legged (deer) tick. Disease symptoms are often arthritis-like with multiple painful joints.

Protect Your Family

Tick-borne diseases are often difficult to diagnose based on symptoms alone. Accurate diagnosis requires a trip to the veterinarian. Left undetected, these diseases can leave dogs with debilitating effects.

A 2006 survey conducted for IDEXX Laboratories, a leading veterinary diagnostic company based in Westbrook, Maine, found that despite the potential debilitating effects of canine Lyme disease, only 12 percent of dog owners were concerned about their dogs contracting the disease. Furthermore, although Lyme disease has been reported in all 50 states, only 41 percent of dog owners surveyed believed their dogs could become infected.

The good news is that dog owners can take a few simple steps to help protect their pets from tick-borne illnesses:

* Talk to a veterinarian about the tick-borne diseases in your specific area.

* Be aware of the common symptoms or signs of the tick-borne diseases that may be present in the area.

* Make screening for tick-borne diseases a requirement during annual exams at the vet.

* Check your dog’s coat daily for ticks.

* Use a tick-prevention medication.

“While Lyme disease continues to be a concern, the fact that a growing number of dogs enter my clinic with multiple tick-borne infections adds a new wrinkle,” said Matt Eberts, a veterinarian who practices in the tick-endemic area of Brainerd, Minn. “There’s really no way for owners to know what’s wrong with their dogs without getting their dogs checked regularly.”

Courtesy of ARAcontent