INDIANAPOLIS — August is National Immunization Awareness Month, and veterinarians say Lyme disease is on the rise in pets this year. There is a higher-than-average risk for pets in Indiana because of the warmer weather and longer seasons for tick production.
Dr. Rachael Campbell, medical director at Pet Wellness Clinics, said spring and fall are typically considered more of a problem for ticks. However, Indiana weather is unpredictable, meaning the threat is year-round. As a result, she recommends year-round prevention because those 40- and 50-degree winter days are warm enough for ticks.
"Ultimately, the concern is it can have an effect on their kidneys, and that of course is an organ that's important in the body that we need to be careful with," Campbell said. "There's not much you can do when they get to certain stages of their kidneys being affected, so the earlier we can try to treat that, the better."
Symptoms of Lyme disease include limping, fever, fatigue and swelling in joints and lymph nodes.
"The problem with Lyme disease is it can mimic, so one of the symptoms is just limping. We see limping all the time," Campbell said. "If they're not on any tick or flea protection, Lyme is always on the back of our mind. Having a fever, they can be lethargic. The symptoms of Lyme disease are always concerning. So, when they're not on tick prevention, it's always going to be something we're thinking about and worrying about even more."
Campbell said owners can check their pet for fleas and ticks using a fine comb for at least a few days after potentially being exposed. The longer the tick is attached, the bigger risk for Lyme disease.
To remove a tick at home, Campbell said you can use tweezers, get as close to the skin as possible, and slowly remove the entire tick and examine the area.
Owners can also always contact their veterinarian for removal.
Pets can get a vaccine for Lyme disease; however, that's not a replacement for prevention.
Of course, heartworm disease is also always a concern. Campbell said heart disease and flea prevention medicine is also crucial year-round.