May: World Lyme Disease Awareness Month, time to learn or re-learn how to prevent and recognize the disease
It’s been a warm winter, especially in New England, and it’s expected to be a banner year for ticks and Lyme Disease. It’s quite fitting that May is World Lyme Disease Awareness Month, as it marks the beginning or spring and summer. It also marks the time to either learn or re-learn how to prevent and recognize this disease.
While Lyme Disease is much more common in humans and our canine friends, cats can become infected, and it’s important to know the signs just in case your cat is one of the small percentile that get the disease.
Untreated Lyme Disease can have long-lasting debilitating effects. But with early detection, symptoms can be minimized if not totally eliminated.
The best way to fight Lyme Disease is through prevention, applying a topical spot-on medications applied between their shoulders once a month. Some tick collars can be effective. Check with your local veterinarian for suggestions on what might be the best choice for your pet.
Another mode of prevention: avoiding places that harbor tickets. Extra care should be taken in the woods and areas with tall grass or low brushes. When traveling, be aware that certain areas of the country like the northeast have a much higher incidence of ticks.
There are a number of different ticks. Keeping the tick to have it properly identified will help you determine whether or not you should be concerned about infection.
Lyme disease is spread through mostly deer ticks, tiny little bugs with a brown stripe, not to be confused with wood or dog ticks with white stripes. It is most common in the East Coast, upper mid-west and Pacific Northwest.
What causes Lyme Disease? A microscopic organism, the spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi, normally feeds on small animals, especially mice. Ticks then feed on these small animals and spread the bacteria infecting other larger animals.
A tick has four life cycles, entirely completed within two months, the egg, larva, nymph and adult. The larvae, nymph and adults all feed on blood and after a feeding, the tick falls from the feeding source.
According to information posted on PetPlace.com, when ticks are in need of a blood meal, they seek out prey by heat sensors. When a warm object passes by them, they attach to this object by clinging to clothing or fur or falling from trees onto the object.
Once they’ve selected their prey, the tick migrates to an area with little hair, around the ears or lips. Then, the tick inserts its pincher-like mouthparts into the skin and begins feeding. These mouthparts are locked in place. Once the meal is complete, the mouthparts disengage and the adult female will fall from the prey and seek shelter to lays her eggs and then expire. Females ingest much more blood than their male counterparts.
Remember, ticks are not insects. Ticks and mites are members of the Acarina order. And when it comes to disease, ticks are a major reason for concern.
Ticks are divided into 3 different families. Only 2 of these families are present in the United States: the Ixodidae (hard tick) family and the Argasidae (soft tick) family. There are about 60 different species of Ixodidae that have been reported in the United States, and 20 species reported in the Argasidae family.
Vets and pet writers cannot stress how important it is to treat your cats with a topical treatment for fleas and ticks. Unbeknownst to me, ticks spread a host of other diseases in addition to Lyme Disease including Cytauxzoon, a serious and fatal disease caused by a protozoan parasite. Affected cats will die within one week. Symptoms include lack of appetite, depression, fever, anemia and jaundice.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. For now, let’s focus on Lyme Disease.
The best way to avoid Lyme is to remove ticks as soon as possible to prevent attachment.
If you see a tick on your pet or yourself, use tweezers or commercially available tick removal device and pull the tick off.
Grab the tick as close to the head as possible. With steady, gentle pressure, pull the tick out of the skin. Pieces of the skin may come off with the tick. If the tick’s head remains in the skin, remove as much as possible. Even if you can’t dislodge the entire head, your pet’s immune system will try to dislodge it by creating a site of infection or even a small abscess.
Do you know a cat or dog that has gotten Lyme Disease? Do you have a lot of ticks in your area? What would you suggest people do to keep their companion friends free of this disease? Paws for Reflection welcomes your comments, experiences and ideas.