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deer tick

Symptoms of Lyme Disease in dogs

Lyme in dogs

Our family adopted a two-year old.

She’s an 11-pound cuddle-bug with a smidgen of sass and a lust for green beans.

The adoption process included a full medical checkup, a spay, and followup exam.

Everything looked great.

Everything, except our little doggy had tested positive for Lyme disease. In her early life, before her first owner abandoned her, she had never been given tick preventatives.

When I saw that she’d tested for Lyme I slightly panicked.

The adoption was already a done deal. And I wasn’t about to back out because of Lyme. If anyone understood the pain and confusion of Lyme, I figured, it was me. We were a perfect match.

When I asked if she had any symptoms, the foster mama clucked reassuringly. No signs, no symptoms.

The foster mom takes in 50 dogs a year. “About 5 of them have NOT tested positive for Lyme,” she said.

She doesn’t consider it a problem. But because they were located in Virginia, the vet started her on Doxy and administered a Lyme vaccination before the adoption.


All pets can get Lyme

“I didn’t even know dogs could get Lyme,” said more than one of our dog-owning friends.

They can.

Our pets are exposed to ticks—deer ticks, dog-ticks, many types—whenever they’re outside. We humans wear insect repellent but we know that it varies in efficacy. It’s very important to protect our animal friends with products such as Heartgard and Nexgard.

Contact with ticks is especially likely in deep woods, but we and our pets can pick up an infected tick anywhere rodents and other carriers might pass.

Including your own backyard.

Unless you are the owner of a blue-tailed skink, http://www.anapsid.org/lyme/sceloporus.html, your pet is not immune.

Cats, horses, ferrets, parrots and other critters bitten by an infected tick are vulnerable to Lyme disease. However, just as with Lyme in humans, much about the disease in dogs is controversial.

Unfortunately, veterinarians do not have a unified approach to diagnosis or treatment. A lot of this has to do with geography. In Virginia, Lyme is reported regularly.


Pet insurance

In canines, Lyme symptoms can manifest as lameness and other bad news.

So, being head-over-heels about our new baby, I looked into pet health insurance, because I know that Lyme symptoms may appear when a body is under stress.

If she were ever to get injured or sick, Lyme bacteria might be waiting to pounce.

But pet insurance raised more questions.

I learned that no pet insurance policy covers pre-existing conditions.

Pre-existing conditions can no longer prevent people from getting proper coverage, but our pets are a different story.

Would pet insurance cover Lyme symptoms that might show up in future years?


The scoop on pre-existing conditions

We pondered whether to buy it or not. It was a conundrum. When your dog has tested positive for Lyme, but shows no signs or symptoms, is it considered a pre-existing condition?

It sounded like a gray area to me, so I called the vet.

“It’s a gray area,” he said. “Ask the insurance company.”

It was starting to feel a little like a game of keep-away.

The representative at Healthy Paws pet insurance told me that coverage of any future symptoms would be determined by our veterinarian.


Let’s say your dog tests positive for Lyme today, but shows no signs or symptoms.

Five years down the road, he starts showing signs.

Lyme can cause many troubling symptoms and signs, including lethargy, loss of appetite, fever, lameness, malaise, joint pain, or kidney disease.

If the vet diagnoses the new symptom as a result of the Lyme disease that had been diagnosed all those years ago, the insurance policy will not cover treatment.

If the vet diagnoses the symptom to be unrelated to Lyme, it will be covered.


Prevention and care in spite of Lyme controversy

At least we can depend on one thing:

There is as much Lyme controversy among pet-doctors as among people-doctors.

It isn't hard to see why there is confusion, since as I mentioned, much of the reporting of Lyme depends on geographical location. Here in North Carolina, Lyme doesn’t exist, according to one of the vets with whom I conferred.

“You just don’t see it here,” he says.

I remain skeptical. It may simply be underreported.

Our dog hails from Virginia http://www.cdc.gov/lyme/stats/maps.html.

As this map shows, Lyme cases are reported there.

What mystifies me is how the ticks know to stay put at the border.


Luckily, I found a vet who shares my skepticism and suggested antibiotic treatment, as well as the vaccine and followup booster.



Lyme treatment in dogs

Some vets, when a dog tests positive for Lyme, will administer the Lyme vaccination. They will also prescribe 30 days of Doxycycline and a followup booster at 3 weeks.

Other vets will not give the vaccination or antibiotics, reasoning that a dog that tests positive but doesn’t have signs or symptoms is a carrier, but is not sick. They claim that only a small percentage of dogs will ever show symptoms of Lyme.

On a personal note, my dog gets a few drops of Samento or teasel in her water bowl. I take one or the other as a prophylactic, so she gets it too.

And maybe most importantly, we do our daily tick checks after having been outdoors. This is tedious, but we sleep better at night.



Probiotics for pups

As soon as our pup finished her Doxy prescription, I started her on a high quality probiotic for pets. Probiotics will help restore her healthy gut flora and fauna. It is best not to give probiotics until your pet is finished with the antibiotics.

I use Dr. Mercola’s pet probiotics. For $5 off this product when ordered from iHerb, click http://www.iherb.com/iherb-brands?rcode=NEJ627.

A friend of mine claims that adding nutritional yeast to her dog’s diet repels ticks and fleas.

However, when I asked the vet if nutritional yeast would repel such critters, he smiled as if reasoning with a 5-year-old and handed me a pamphlet for NexGard.

This is not to say that the vet disapproves of nutritional yeast for dogs.

He claims that our dog eats better than he does. So because of the B vitamins that make her coat shine, I continue to give her nutritional yeast as well as probiotics.


Herbal alternatives for Fido

In humans, anti-inflammatory supplements such as fish oil, glucosamine, chondroitin, and turmeric are suggested for reducing inflammation and pain of Lyme symptoms such as headaches and arthritis.

Always ask your veterinarian to see if supplements or herbal alternatives are right for your pet. *See warning below.

For a little extra pet protection, I use high quality products on our pooch that are designed for pets and that use essential oils.

In my opinion, a line of quality products are available online from jeansgreens.com in Castleton, New York.

Jean’s Greens offers a Bug Repellent Shampoo that uses essential oils to fend off biting insects, including ticks. Ingredients include eucalyptus, lemon, rosemary and wormwood essential oils.


*Warning! Always check with your vet before feeding your beloved pet a new food or using any ingredients on their coat. Essential oils, when used wrong, or if a cheap brand is used, can cause harm or even kill a precious pet.


Anti-inflammatory diet for dogs - fish oil

Our vet will check our dog for elevated protein levels in her kidneys every three or four months. If protein levels are high, it indicates kidney trouble. However, if her levels have not risen for one year, all is considered well and we may expand the time between checkups.

For the anti-inflammatory effect, we added a high quality fish oil to her diet. Our vet says to be aware that a lot of fish oil on the market is “snake oil,” due to unethical producers who spot an easy way to cash in on people’s love for their pets.

She gets the same kind of fish oil I take, once daily. It has made her coat thick and soft as goose down.

Just a note here about delivery. I don’t let her swallow the whole capsule. The doc suggests cutting it open and squeezing the oil over her food. This prevents the whole cap from racing through the dog’s digestive system and popping out the other end—before it has had a chance to dissolve.



Good girl!

She loves to learn new words. Her favorite is “dance.”

Friends say they see a big difference in her personality, coat, and carriage since the day we brought her home from the rescue agency.

She may be Lyme positive—but so far, so good.

With all the love, care, and supplements she gets — along with the grain-free dog food, she is as full of good cheer as ever.

She still goes nuts over green beans. She's a good girl.

And she’s never met a human she didn’t love. I’m sure she’d even greet the jerk who tossed her out and shut the door in her face.


To him, I am forever grateful. For if he hadn’t rejected her and given the neighbors a reason to take her to the rescue people, we would never have met her.

She is, like your dog is to you, our precious baby. A font of love, forgiveness, and a source of happiness and joy.

With a little luck, we will never, ever have to use that pet insurance policy.


How to remove a tick from your dog
http://www.akc.org/learn/dog-health/lyme-disease-in-dogs/
http://www.akc.org/learn/dog-health/how-to-remove-tick-from-dog/


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Warm-weather ticks & Treatment strategy questioned

Surprisingly brisk bursts of wind scatter multi-colored leaves and shuttle herds of gray thunderheads across the sky. It’s Fall, arguably the most beautiful time of the year, at least in our nook of the SE. Still, when it comes to unwanted critters, awareness and prevention are the rule for venturing outdoors.

Warmer weather creates a haven for the tiny natural catastrophes we know as
ticks. In the Southeast, we may be advised that ticks don’t carry Lyme disease, but an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure. A recent news clip from WXIA in Georgia attests to the rise in ticks, which may be due to the very warm weather much of the nation has endured over the course of 2012.

For prevention, the classic advice includes keeping on top of your pets’ tick and flea medications, and using caution outdoors. When you are outside, whether hiking, strolling through a neighborhood park, or preparing your garden for the season, don’t make yourself available for ticks. Start a fashion trend -- goodness knows it’ll keep the neighbors amused. Tuck your pants into the tops of your socks and wear light-colored clothing so ticks are easier to spot. Who says you can’t wear white after Labor Day?

Other prevention-strategies for the season: Make a tick-check a part of your post-outdoors routine. We can’t see our whole selves even in the mirror. Ask a family member to inspect the back of your head and your back. If they do find a tick -- have them remove it without damaging it (which can increase the risk of infection) and put it in a baggie, so it can be checked for the bacterial complex which causes Lyme and other diseases. Not all ticks carry the spirochete that causes Lyme.

We recommend sending it to
IGeneX Labs in Palo Alto, California. There are a few other labs around the country, which you can find through searching online.

Watch and wait? Or treat with doxy?
People who suspect that they’ve been bitten and infected by a tick have a couple of choices. One is to watch and wait. See your doctor, and be ready to treat symptoms aggressively if they arise. Symptoms can be extremely subtle, and they are mightily varied depending on your particular immune system response, general state of health, age and many other factors.

The other option is to begin antibiotic treatment immediately, with the most common drug used for Lyme, doxycycline. This approach, which is apparently based on only one case study, deserves scrutiny, according to ILADS doctor Elizabeth Maloney, who has
another view on the matter.

In her written testimony, she questions whether this now commonly-recommended prophylaxis strategy is sufficient to treat the borrelia infection. She states that it may indeed prevent the patient from getting the treatment they need, by hiding the symptoms of Lyme. Watching and waiting may be the wisest choice.



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Safe mosquito & tick repellent

A friend dropped by with her 8-month-old baby the other day. We sat at the picnic table, enjoying the deep shade of the bamboo. She set the little guy down on the ground, buck naked, where he proceeded to crawl around and gleefully do what babies do best -- put everything into his mouth. As he sampled the bamboo leaves, I flashed on how much my relationship with nature has changed since having Lyme. In the past, I never would have worried about an occasional bug bite. I was like my friend in that respect, assuming that nature, in small doses, mostly can’t, or won’t, cause harm. Now I’m older, wiser, or perhaps just merely unluckier, but one thing’s for sure, I’m definitely much more cautious when interacting with the Great Outdoors.

Typically, I take any recommendation for tick and mosquito repellent with a grain. Either they’re full of poison or they don’t work because they’re ‘natural.’ However, I’ve been experimenting with a safe mosquito & tick spray repellent in my yard and around my house. It’s made of garlic juice. As an honorary Italian, I love the smell, but it does fade after a few hours. This stuff, Mosquito Barrier, is safe to use around people, fish, butterflies and birds, but it supposedly disturbs ticks and kills mosquitoes.

So far, I like the results but I’ve only been using it for a few weeks, so can’t tell if it’s made a huge difference. The baby didn’t get bit, so you can breathe a sigh of relief now. I live on a creek near a lake, so we’re no strangers to bugs. They’re part and parcel of our community, which is actually a certified wildlife habitat. We see no evidence of deer, but there are plenty of resident birds, geese, ducks, frogs, fish, squirrels and other critters (even reportedly a black bear) which means that ticks are probably here as well.

I’m aware that some people discourage deer with certain deer-repelling plants. Others put up fencing to keep deer out, which is a much more complicated and expensive proposition, but worthwhile, if it works. I picked up a citronella-scented geranium at the nursery and placed it by the front door, and I’ve got a truckload of garlic juice ready to spray in another week.

What are you using to repel ticks from your yard? Please share. I’d love to hear.
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NIH develops more sensitive test for Lyme disease

Reported in the June, 2010 issue of Clinical and Vaccine Immunology:

New Test May Simply and Rapidly Detect Lyme Disease

Researchers from the National Institutes of Health have developed a more sensitive test for Lyme disease that may offer earlier detection and lower cost. The details are reported in the June 2010 issue of the journal Clinical and Vaccine Immunology.

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted to animals and humans by deer ticks. A skin lesion at the site of the bite is one of the first signs of infection followed by potential neurological, cardiac, and rheumatological complications upon entering the bloodstream. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently recommends a two-step blood test for diagnosing the disease, however, several limitations include low sensitivity during the early stages of infection, significant time and expense, and an inability to distinguish between active and prior infection.
In prior studies the luciferase immunoprecipitation system (LIPS) test showed promise at detecting a variety of infectious agents including viral and fungal pathogens. Here, LIPS was evaluated for its ability to detect antibody responses to Borrelia burgdorferi proteins in blood samples taken from a patient group (some healthy and some with Lyme disease) as well as a control group. Results showed that diagnostic levels of 98% to 100% were achieved using LIPS in conjunction with the synthetic protein VOVO.

"These results suggest that screening by the LIPS test with VOVO and other B. burgdorferi antigens offers an efficient quantitative approach for evaluation of the antibody responses in patients with Lyme disease," say the researchers.

(P.D. Burbelo, A.T. Issa, K.H. Ching, J.I. Cohen, M.J. Iadarola, A. Marques. 2010. Rapid, simple, quantitative, and highly sensitive antibody detection for Lyme disease. Clinical and Vaccine Immunology, 17. 6: 904-909.)
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Video--how to repel ticks

The harvest moon is rising outside my office window at this moment. It's full and bright and lovely. I noticed our neighbor's garden is burgeoning with ripe green peppers and orange squashes that need to be picked and enjoyed. Gardening and me don't exactly fit very well anymore -- not since Lyme revised my priorities. I leave it up to braver folks than I, who aren't as paranoid of tiny ticks. However, I still love the idea of gardening, and I'm always interested in discovering ways to do it safely.

How to Repel Ticks -- powered by eHow.com

This eHow video, posted by a gardener, explains the basics about how to protect yourself and your kids from ticks. She recommends the usual precautions, such as covering up head to toe with multiple layers of clothing. Then she mentions something I hadn't heard before. She suggests that on your hands and face, and any other body parts that aren't covered by clothing, you put on oil.

Her reasoning is that although the ticks are nearly impossible to repel once they've gotten onto your skin, they don't like oil because it causes them to slip, or reduces their success at sinking their sharp teeth into your skin. She says any kind of oil will do -- olive oil, lavender oil, baby oil, etc. She mentions DEET, as well, for its effectiveness as a tick repellent.

She also recommends putting your clothing into a hot dryer as soon as you come in from the garden, woods, forest, or wherever you may have been exposed to ticks. She claims that if you put your clothes into the washing machine, you risk setting them loose in the house. However, the hot temperature of the dryer should kill them.

I think I need to ask Dr Eva Sapi or some of our other Lyme experts about these claims before I believe them wholeheartedly. In our last interview, Dr Sapi told us that the biology graduate students in her University of New Haven Lyme research program couldn't even keep the ticks away using DEET, as they went hiking in the forest for a tick-gathering field trip.

What do you think? Have you ever used this oil trick? Is it effective?
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Educate yourself about ticks

Summertime is so inviting, the trails around my house are shady, green and cool. Summer is also time to pay close attention to the small dangers in the woods and grassy fields. If you hike, camp or hang out in the great outdoors, or know anyone who does, please pass on to this information about ticks and tick-borne diseases.

Everything you always wanted to know about ticks (but were too chicken to ask) is included in this handbook, the new revised edition prepared by Kirby C. Stafford III, PhD Vice Director, Chief Entomologist of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven. It's an 84-page booklet that you can download as a PDF.

Tick Management Handbook
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Reduce your chance of tick bite

Learn about tick bites.

• Avoid likely tick-infested areas such as wooded, bushy areas or places with high grass and leaf litter - especially from May through the fall, when ticks are most active.

• When in likely tick areas, wear insect repellent with 20 percent DEET or more.

• Light-colored clothing helps you spot ticks more easily. Also, wear long sleeves and pants, tucking your shirt into your pants and you pant legs into your shoes.

• Before going indoors, perform a tick check on yourself.

• If you find any, use a fine-tipped tweezer to remove. Grab the tick close to the skin, and do not twist or jerk.

Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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Deer ticks and other critters

"My dog has Lyme. Could I get it from her?"

No. If you are bitten by a tick, you may get Lyme. Your dog cannot give it to you directly. However, you may both get it from the same infected tick. Being bitten by a tick that crawled onto you when you were snuggling or letting her sleep on your bed is more likely. Ticks don't jump, like fleas. They crawl.

These ticks and others can be vectors for Lyme and other bad diseases. Vector means they are animals that can carry disease to humans.

* Deer Tick (Ixodes scapularis)
* Western Blacklegged Tick (Ixodes pacificus)
* Lone Star Tick (Amblyomma americanum)
* Avian Tick (Ixodes auritulus)

Search Term: Lyme disease tick.

According to Eva Sapi, PhD, biologist and director of the Lyme research program at the University of New Haven, Connecticut, the ticks collected in the NE region of the US this year have shown a higher percentage of Lyme infection than in the past. Not only are there greater numbers of ticks than in the past, they're also more likely to be carrying Borrelia burgdorferi, the Lyme bacteria.

Your dog, cat, or horse might inadvertently share a Lyme-infected tick with you. Do be careful and perform regular tick checks all over your body whenever you've spent time with them. If you rarely venture into the woods or onto the seashore without slathering your body with DEET, and make your kids stay in your own yard to play, you may not think you are putting yourself or your loved ones in harm's way. Unfortunately, it's tougher than that to steer clear of tick habitat. Lyme researchers tell me there are plenty of ticks in our own yards, not just in the wild. Where we live in North Carolina, deer regularly walk along the side fence, where they're nicely hidden by the dense woods in the lot next door. I only spot them when I'm spacing out while staring past my computer monitor, out the office windows. One time I thought I saw a whole section of tree branches move away from the tree. On closer inspection, I realized with a start that I had been looking at a beautiful buck with a giant rack. Deer are survivors. They are excellent at adapting to living in urban areas, and they are often covered in ticks.

I'd love to have a yard full of guinea fowl, who find ticks a tasty treat to eat. However, they're super noisy and I'm afraid they'd drive me and the neighbor, who is also a writer and works at home, batty with their cry.

Tell me what you do to avoid (or control) ticks?
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Hunting deer won't eradicate Lyme

Each Tuesday and Thursday through the end of February, the sound of sharpshooters hunting white-tailed deer will echo through the neighborhoods of suburban New Jersey. The deer overpopulate, eat the trees, and pose a traffic hazard. They also spread Lyme disease.

Intelligent management of the deer population is necessary for many reasons. However, it isn't prudent to assume that by killing the deer we can eradicate the spread of Lyme. Preventing the spread of Lyme disease, which is believed to be caused by the bite of a Ixode tick, is more complex than getting rid of the deer. While it's true that deer make excellent hosts, roaming and foraging in the brush where ticks are likely to be waiting for a ride, it is also a fact that even if the deer population was to altogether disappear, ticks would continue to survive simply by looking elsewhere for their immediate needs.

Birds, mice, and other rodents make a perfectly acceptable meal ticket for the lowly tick, who isn't picky. A tiny tick can only move within a limited space: about a nine foot range. Ticks generally occupy a space from the ground up to about three feet, clinging to grasses and brush, which is why it is important to wear protective clothing and use caution when you walk or hike through forested areas. They are intent on finding a host who can give them what they need to survive, and any convenient warm-blooded animal who ventures close enough to offer a ride and a hot supper will do. It doesn't need to be a deer.
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Ticks love warm winters

Unusually warm winters make it easy for ticks and mosquitoes to survive. Although this is not generally the time you would think about protecting your dog or cat from ticks, these creatures can appear during the winter in surprising locales. If your local climate is warmer than usual for the beginning of January, you might consider treating your pets with a tick repellant. Be sure to check your pet's paws and coat thoroughly, lest she or he bring any of the little hitchhiking critters into the house.

If you allow your pet to sleep on your bed, take extra measures to keep them from introducing any tiny friends. Ticks can be as small as a piece of ground black pepper. They are extremely difficult to detect. It's better to apply tick repellant to your pet to be on the safe side. Check with your local pet supply store or veteranarian for an insecticide that is safe enough for your furry pal.
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