What is Lymes Disease
There is a nasty disease out there called Lymes disease which is transferred by ticks to mammals. As a dog owner and therefore regular walker you need to know what it is and how to prevent you and your dog from catching it. Lymes disease is nothing trivial and can lead to nasty infections (according to the Center for Disease Control) of joints, your heart and your nervous system.
Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system. Lyme disease is diagnosed based on symptoms, physical findings (e.g., rash), and the possibility of exposure to infected ticks.
Where do you find ticks
Being blessed with a four legged companion ,means you spend a lot of time walking in the coutryside. If you live in a city then we pity you, for the rest of you the ticks natural habitat is grassy areas, heathland and woodland. Pretty much anywhere you would walk a dog. They like to climb to the top of blades of grass and wait to spring onto the passing traffic, that could be you, your dog, sheep or anything with warm blood. So be aware of moist areas on your walks and in your garden, like piles of leaves where they can survive without drying out.[ux_image id="8586"]
What does a tick look like?
Ticks are part of the same family as spiders, mites and scorpions. They live off the blood of their animal hosts, which could include you...They look like tiny spiders with a backpack. When they drink your blood the sack fills up to around the size of a coffee bean.
There are four stages to a tick’s life-cycle: egg, larva, nymph, and adult. Larvae, nymphs and adults spend most of the time on the ground protected by leaf litter, leaving this protection to find a meal. They feed only once in each stage, staying attached for a few days, then dropping to the ground to moult into the next stage or overwinter. The whole life cycle from egg to adult lasts around 2 years.
How to avoid tick bites
There is no foolproof way to avoid ticks other than staying indoors. What you can do however is take certain precautions when you next go for a walk:
- Wear long trousers.
- Tuck trousers into socks.
- Wear wellington boots.
- Brush yourself down before you go indoors (ticks sometimes spend a bit of time searching for the best spot to bite, so get rid of them before they decide.
- Wear insect repellant.
- Avoid overhanging foliage by sticking to the middle of paths.
- Keep your garden clear of piled up leaves which make good habitats for ticks.
- Don't walk.
- Use tick repellant spray on your dog.
How to check your dog for ticks
Whne you get back from your walk, you should always check your dog for ticks. There may be obvious giveaways like constant itching but quite often the tick will be tucked away somewhere hidden drinking like Bram Stokers Dracula. You can check by using your hand to run through the hair of the dog looking for lumps and bumps. Use a brush to look through your dogs hair and don't forget to brush against the grain of hair as this will expose more of your dogs skin. Look carefully in areas around their head and ears.
What to do when you find a tick
Don't panic and pull it off. Take your time and stop thinking of Rambo and how he burns leeches off his skin in the movies. You need to carefully remove the tick so as to prevent infection from leftover bits in the skin. If incorrectly removed a tick can cause infection and worse cause them to regurgitate their meal back into the carrier which will increase the likelyhood of infection.
You can buy tick removal tools from any good vet and study the instructions for how to remove them. Follow up with a antiseptic wipe to clean any dirt from the area. If you have been bitten by a tick you may see a rash develop so go and see your GP if you notice any symptoms. We are not vets or doctors so please read further informtaion provided by the NHS on Lymes Disease.
Good luck with your walking we hope this piece provides you with a little bit of information you may find useful to keep you and your dog healthy. If you have any questions please refer to your vet or doctor for professional advice.