In a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it stated that the number of people diagnosed with Lyme disease is about "10 times" higher than was previously reported.
The CDC estimates that "300,000 Americans" are diagnosed with Lyme disease "each year." BluePearl Veterinary Partners added that "pets are susceptible" to the disease as well.
Lyme disease is an infectious disease caused by bacteria that is carried and transmitted by ticks. It can cause fatigue, fever, joint pain, kidney damage, lethargy, loss of appetite, neurological disorders and trouble walking. It is treatable, but the sooner it is caught, the better.
Data from the CDC states that in the United States, Lyme disease is most commonly found in the East Coast and Midwest. The CDC also reported that 96 percent of cases reported came from Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin.
The number of cases of Lyme disease in people is on the rise, but it is also on the rise with pets too, typically dogs.
According to the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC), one in two dogs tested positive for Lyme disease so far this year in Wayne County. That's 89 positive cases out of 165 dogs tested, approximately 54 percent.
For Wayne County that is high, but it only makes up 0.44 percent of all positive Lyme disease cases in Pennsylvania. With the exception of five counties, the entire state is in the high infection risk range, shown from maps on the CAPC website, www.capcvet.org.
The website provides information about Lyme disease and you can also view different areas on the prevalence maps to see their statistics.
Cherry Ridge Veterinary Clinic has also seen an increase of Lyme disease in pets.
"Every year the number of cases seems to be a little higher," said Dr. Alicia C. Esser, D.V.M from Cherry Ridge Veterinary Clinic. "It can be attributed to lower usage of tick and flea preventions, which are effective. No bite means no disease."
She said that Lyme disease requires a "very specific" tick and that "not all" can carry the disease.
"There's increased concern that the disease is moving further south," Esser stated.
The deer ticks like the humidity in our area and its "natural host species" is also there.
"They like to feed off deer, people and dogs," she explained. "They like the weather and wildlife presence around here."
Page 2 of 3 - The lone star tick, which is also of concern, carries other tick-borne diseases, particularly tick fever and anaplasmosis.
Esser stated that "up to 20 percent" of dogs that test positive for Lyme disease can also have a second tick-borne disease simultaneously. She added that it's "yet to be proven" if cats can get Lyme disease.
"There seems to be something unique about cats' immune systems," she said.
She said that it's "not uncommon" to have a person and a dog be affected with Lyme disease in the same household.
"Lyme disease is treatable for both humans and dogs," said Esser. "There is also a vaccine for dogs."
Cherry Ridge can test for Lyme disease as well as tick fever and anaplasmosis with a test called Accuplex4.
"The newer tests can tell the difference between any vaccine symptoms and the infection," Esser stated.
Pet owners can request to have a test done if they are "at all worried" about their pet having the disease.
"With dogs we act on suspicion and a state of caution for the test, which is inexpensive and a safe drug," she said.
With people, Esser said testing is "real difficult" to tell if it's Lyme disease or another type of infection, which, she said, is why it "takes a long time" to be diagnosed.
"However we have better tests now that are more accurate," she stated.
Esser said there are several theories as to why Lyme disease is more prevalent.
"Some link the increased number with warmer winters," she said. "There's also the idea of the increased deer population and more people living in suburban and urban areas. Part of it can also be attributed to more testing being done."
She added that there is more education going on with Lyme disease.
"There is increased physician awareness," she said.
Esser provided the names of several medications that work best to help prevent pets from getting bit. They are Vectra, Advantix and, not as popular, Frontline.
Page 3 of 3 - "The most important point is preventing the bite," she said. "No ticks means no disease."
BluePearl Veterinary Partners also provided tips on how to protect your pets.
• Talk with your veterinarian about vaccinating your pet against Lyme disease.
• Talk with your veterinarian about the best way to prevent fleas and ticks from latching on to your pet.
• They may suggest an oral medication where your pet is simply given a pill once a month or they may encourage spot-on medications, medicated shampoos, powders, tick dips or tick collars.
• Try to keep your pets indoors as much as possible and have your yard and home treated.
• Inspect your pet for ticks if they have been outside near wooded areas.
• If a tick is found, take tweezers and remove the tick as close to the body of the pet as possible, trying to get the head of the tick out.
• Keep an eye on your pet and look out for any changes in behavior.
• If your pet is not acting right, take him or her to your veterinarian as soon as possible.