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Tick disease: Preventative measures needed

Along with the warm weather come many joys of spring and summer. Unfortunately, so do ticks. It is important to be educated about the diseases these pests carry.

Humans and animals alike are susceptible to a range of tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease, anaplasmosis and others. Dr. Eric Thorsgard, of Animal Care Clinic, explained that extra preventative measures need to be taken with dogs because, unlike humans and some other animals, dogs are not able to pull ticks off themselves.

Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease. Deer are mandatory for these tick's reproduction, so since this area's deer population hasn't taken any recent hard hits, the deer tick population also booms, he said.

The disease is transmitted to dogs through tick bite. It then enters the blood stream and is carried to other parts of the body, especially localizing in joints. In dogs, symptoms can be any combination of limping, lameness, fever, fatigue and loss of appetite. Thorsgard said untreated Lyme Disease progresses, causing renal failure, Addison's disease and anemia. If the disease is caught, antibiotics begin working in as quickly as two days, and full recovery occurs after 30 days of treatment.

What people don't realize is how long the deer tick season is, said Thorsgard. Deer ticks, unlike other tick species, have a two-year life cycle. This means that instead of dying after laying their eggs, these ticks live through the winter and become active at the first sign of warm weather. Thorsgard said there were bouts of Lyme Disease in the clinic as early as March. The ticks will still be active in November, and people must be aware that during this entire stretch of time, dogs need to be regularly checked.

The only tick-borne disease that has a vaccine is Lyme disease, but if a case is bad enough, the vaccine can fail. An effective way of preventing disease contraction is through application of tick-repelling rubs onto the dog's skin. Thorsgard recommended that products such as Frontline, which is weather proof, be applied at least every three weeks - waiting even four weeks is risky. Personally, on his dogs, Thorsgard uses two different products and alternately applies them every two weeks. He said that there is no reason for any dog to not receive treatments.

If a pet shows any symptoms of Lyme disease, he said it should be brought to the veterinarian immediately. In the mean time, pet-owners should use the necessary products and remember to check for ticks.