Lyme Disease in the News: More Threats to You and Your Pet

Lyme disease continues to be in the news, and not just because spring is considered prime-time season.

Here at Pet Health Central, we’ve recently discussed “Preventing Lyme Disease in Dogs Month” and some new studies regarding climate change and ticks. What’s crucial to know is that researchers continue to study ticks and the diseases they carry and new insights lead to more reasons than ever to take steps to prevent tick bites from affecting you or your pet.

For example, scientists are now discovering that birds are an even bigger player as carriers of Lyme disease bacteria.

What does that mean to you, me and our pets?

Lyme disease is an infection transmitted by the bite of tick. Scientists have long known that small animals, such as the white-footed mouse, carry the bacteria. When black-legged tick nymphs feed off mice carrying the bacteria (Borrellia burdoferi), they ingest it and then can transmit it to their next host. So, in areas with a high prevalence of Lyme disease, more hosts mean more chance of infection.

In a recent study published in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers found a higher incidence of the bacteria in birds than ever suspected.

In a story by Entomology Today, researchers noted that that study represented perhaps the most comprehensive look at birds as hosts. Just as airplanes can carry diseases between nations, so, too, can birds carry the bacteria farther.

A large number of infected hosts in your area allows for more opportunities for ticks to encounter them. Ultimately, that means more chances for you and your pets to encounter infected ticks.

This is why it’s even more critical to be diligent about fighting the bite of ticks. The Centers for Disease Control estimate that nearly 300,000 cases of Lyme disease occur yearly in the U.S. The vast majority of cases are reported in the eastern U.S. and Great Lakes area.

For your pet, Lyme disease can lead to debilitating symptoms and, if left untreated, can lead to death. In humans, Lyme disease can also lead to long-term illness costing up to $1.3 billion per year to treat.

Take steps to avoid tick bites:

  • Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter
  • Use insect repellent containing DEET when outdoors
  • Use products that contain permethrin on clothing
  • Wear clothing with long sleeves and pants
  • Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors to wash off or find ticks that may be on you

Make sure to inspect any gear – or pets – that have been outside with you as ticks can hitch a ride indoors. An easier solution is to treat your pets with a flea and tick topical that kills ticks that can carry Lyme disease.

Our knowledge about ticks, fleas and the diseases they carry continues to grow. Sometimes that news is a little scary, but with the right steps, we can all keep ticks at bay!

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