For the love of your pet: Protect you pet against Lyme disease

My dog has been diagnosed with Lyme disease. Can you tell me more about it?

Lyme disease is the most commonly reported tick-borne infection in the U.S. population and is now being diagnosed among dogs at a rate higher than that of people.

Most people are alarmed when they find a tick on their pet. Ticks are more than just a bothersome pest; they can be dangerous to you and your pets. Ticks are usually found in thick brush or mulch, where they are able to climb up trees and to the top of the brush to jump right on your pet as it walks through.

When a warm-blooded mammal comes near a tick, its body heat and movement attracts it. The tick will crawl into the perfect spot - usually dark, warm places like between toes, armpits or ears - and then will attach.

The tick secretes a chemical in its saliva that assists with staying attached. There, it will engorge itself with your pet's blood, sometimes to the point where it will detach.

Ticks can carry the organism that causes Lyme disease, but not all ticks do. Lyme disease can cause arthritis and renal, cardiac and neurological disease. It is sometimes hard to identify, but a simple in-house blood test can confirm. Prevention of Lyme disease in the dog can be achieved through a combination of strategies, including tick avoidance, vaccinations and the application of a monthly preventative.

Avoid wooded and high brush areas. Keep your lawns mowed and yards free of weeds and undergrowth. Examine your pet thoroughly from nose to tail, paying special attention to the most common areas ticks hide. If you find a tick, you can spray it with rubbing alcohol and then try to remove it with a piece of tape or carefully with tweezers. Your dog can also be vaccinated against Lyme disease with two vaccinations given about one month apart and then once a year there after.

I suggest having your yard and house sprayed if you find a tick. You can call your area bug man to spray for you; that way you know they will pick the right chemicals for your problem and also chemicals that will not harm your pets. If you choose to spray, make sure you pick products that have quick dry times and are safe for pets after they are dry.

Chemicals that are safe for your pet are usually marked that way, or they are marked safe for young children. When treating your yard, make sure to spray a couple of feet up the fence line, in the flower beds and around and on porches.

Ticks and fleas are notorious for hiding in those places. When spraying inside your home, get the tough spots: under the couch, in closets, under and behind piles of clothes.

Dr. John Beck has a veterinary practice at Hillcrest Animal Hospital in Victoria. Submit questions to Dr. Beck at drjohnbeck@hotmail.com.