Do you think vampires are real? If you spend a warm day outdoors in North Carolina, it probably won’t take you long to become a believer. Mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks are some real-life vampires that call our state home. They’re certainly annoying, but they also can pose risks to the health of you and your pets. 

One of those risks is Lyme disease. Since April is Prevention of Lyme Disease in Dogs Month, we wanted to take a closer look at this condition and the animal that transmits it. 

What is Lyme disease? 

Lyme disease is caused by bacteria. The pathogen is transmitted through the bite of infected deer ticks, also called black-legged ticks. These arachnids can be found in the Midwest and throughout the entire East Coast—including in North Carolina. Deer ticks are usually most active in the autumn and spring, but they can also be troublesome during warmer winter days.  

Is Lyme disease in North Carolina? 

Lyme disease is more prevalent in the northeastern region of the U.S., although our neighbor Virginia is considered a high-incident state based on 2018 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  

While there are few human cases of Lyme disease in North Carolina, the number of incidents has been increasing in recent years, according to the state’s Division of Public Health. In 2019, most cases of the disease occurred in the northwestern portion of the state; however, Nash County did have a few incidents as well. 

What are the signs and symptoms in dogs? 

Signs of Lyme disease may not present in dogs for months. Things to look out for include fever, appetite loss, swollen lymph nodes and joints, and lethargy. Of course, these worrying symptoms can be caused by other health issues as well, so a veterinary visit is definitely needed.  

Left untreated, the disease can damage a dog’s nervous system, heart, or kidneys and ultimately prove fatal. To prevent these repercussions, veterinarians typically give antibiotics for about a month. Other treatments may be needed to help manage symptoms. 

Keep in mind that your infected dog cannot transmit Lyme disease to you or any other pets. The people and animals in your household are only at risk if they’ve been bitten by an infected tick as well. 

How do I help prevent tick bites? 

Lyme disease may not be a major issue in North Carolina yet, but there are other diseases transmitted by ticks in the area. These include Ehrlichiosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. 

To help reduce your chance of you or your pet getting a tick bite, you’ll need to make your environment less hospitable for the creepy creatures.  

-Keep your lawn tidy. Rake the leaves, keep the grass mowed, and remove any old furniture or equipment that’s lying around outdoors.

-Consider using gravel or wood chips to create lawn barriers. This may help reduce the number of ticks making the trek into your yard. 

-Set up play areas and other leisure spots away from trees and wooded areas. 

-Talk with your vet about flea and tick prevention products that can be used on your pets. 

-Checks your pet (and yourself!) daily and immediately remove any ticks if found. Try to identify the type of tick if possible, as this can be helpful information for veterinarians and doctors.