Tick Population Is Especially High; Make Sure to Check Your Outdoor Pets for Ticks!

The tick population this spring is especially high. At Willard Veterinary Clinic, we are urging pet owners to take measures to protect their pets. Dr. Meg Connelly, a veterinarian at Willard Veterinary Clinic, is warning pet owners throughout the South Shore to guard against ticks this spring.

According to Dr. Connelly, this area harbors a significant tick population with a high incidence of Lyme disease transmission. Lyme disease causes painful, arthritis-like symptoms, fever, lethargy, and lack of appetite. In rare cases, it can also cause heart and nervous system problems. She notes one case where the dog presented with licking its paws constantly, and this turned out to be a symptom of Lyme disease. Cats seem to be resistant to Lyme disease, but get other tick borne illnesses and can carry the ticks into the home, where they can be transferred to family members. She warns that animals and people can both suffer from tick-transmitted diseases, so families should take safety measures such as applying flea and tick preventative pet medications on their animals.

Pet veterinarian Dr. Connelly explains that the whole Eastern Seaboard, including the South Shore, is a hotbed for ticks that carry Lyme disease. “Areas such as Milton and Dorchester, as well as many other areas have teeming tick populations, and we see several cases of Lyme disease in our animal clinic weekly. Tick larvae hatch sometime in February, and they hunt all year round. So if you take your dog walking in the woods, in a park, or even the back yard, check your pet, and yourself, for ticks. The faster you remove a tick, the better. The first 24 hours a tick is cementing itself to the host and performing host adaptation. During host adaptation the tick is figuring out what kind of animal it is feeding on. It will begin to feed and transmit disease on the second day of attachment. It is critical to use preventative measures that repel and kill ticks and their eggs. In high risk situations, we even recommend Lyme disease vaccinations.”

Dr. Connelly advises pet owners to call the clinic if they find a tick on their pet for removal instructions. According to the veterinarian, people often twist or jerk the tick trying to remove the parasite and this may cause the ticks mouthparts to be left behind in the skin. The veterinary clinic staff can assist with removal and give further advice to pet owners who find a tick or any type of parasites.

Dr. Connelly states that pet owners should also be aware of Lyme disease symptoms, in case a tick goes unnoticed during the first 36 to 48 hours after it attaches. The most common symptom is joint pain, swelling, and stiffness that may shift from one leg to the other. Some dogs experience kidney problems, difficulty breathing, fever, lethargy, vomiting, and swollen lymph nodes near the tick bite. She urges pet owners who notice any of these symptoms, to come in immediately for diagnosis. Antibiotic treatment can help the sooner it is administered. She also recommends bringing in any removed ticks tightly enclosed in a zip-locked bag for identification.

Connelly adds that prevention is always the best course of action against tick-borne diseases like Lyme disease. “Dogs love to play outside, and just because there are ticks out there, you and your pet don’t have to hide in the house. Just keep them on their anti-tick pet meds and check them every day so you can act quickly.” Willard Veterinary Clinic can work with pet owners to provide preventive medications for ticks and other parasites.

For more than 20 years, Willard Veterinary Clinic has provided dedicated veterinary care for the communities of Quincy, Boston, Dorchester, Milton, Braintree, Weymouth, Canton, Randolph, Hingham, Abington, Hanover, and Rockland. Contact us to see why we’re different!

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