Lyme Disease and Your Pets: Do You Know What's True and What's Not?

Lyme disease occurs only in certain areas. True. Lyme disease takes its name from the town of Lyme, Connecticut, where it was first identified. It is now the most commonly reported vector-borne (meaning it’s transmitted by a living organism, such as a bloodsucking insect) disease in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control, but as of 2014, 96 percent of confirmed Lyme disease cases in humans were reported in just 14 states: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin. In addition, the West Coast, in particular Northern California, also sees many cases. That means that dogs in these areas are also at higher risk. And dogs are considered to be sentinels, if you will, for the risk of Lyme disease to humans.

My dog doesn't go hiking with me, so he's not at risk. Not necessarily. You can bring ticks home on your clothing, which can then make their way onto your dog. Protect yourself and your dog by using tick repellent or tick control products when you enter wooded areas; wearing light-colored clothing that can be checked easily for the presence of ticks before you enter your home; and “tickscaping” your yard by removing leaf litter, mowing the lawn frequently and keeping down tall grass and brush.

Preventives are available to repel or kill ticks. Absolutely true! Talk to your veterinarian about which product is best suited to your area and your pet’s lifestyle. And you may want to consider the Lyme disease vaccine for your dog if you live in an endemic area and your dog has an active outdoor lifestyle that involves hunting, search and rescue, or other activities that may bring him into contact with ticks.

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