Local vets warn pet owners on rising cases of Lyme disease this season

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month, meaning ticks are out in full force. Local veterinarians say the number of Lyme disease cases in Horry County has doubled since 2014. Warmer weather calls for outdoor activities with your loved ones, including your pets. Vets say it's important for everyone to perform daily tick checks on yourselves and especially your pets.
This season, tick sightings are already soaring.  Dr. Isabelle Ying at Myrtle Beach Animal Hospital said they've seen an influx of tick and flea cases in the past and more diagnoses of Lyme disease than ever before. Lyme disease is a bacteria that's spread by ticks -- specifically the black-legged tick, also known as the deer tick.

Dr. Ying said early detection is key. Many times, owners will be able to find ticks, but they're really good at hiding in pet fur. So, there are times you may not even notice.

Limping is a key symptom linked to Lyme disease. The most common results are joint problems. The disease can lead to various kidney problems and in extreme cases, even death. That's why doctors are stressing the importance of checking for ticks daily to make sure they don't go undetected and potentially enter our homes.
These days ticks aren't just in the woods, vets say you can find them almost anywhere, like right in your own backyard.
“With the bird migrations and global warming, we’re seeing a lot of spread in our parasites. Especially with different birds coming from up north, especially the American Robin has been shown to be a reservoir for this black-legged tick carrying Lyme disease,” said Dr. Ying.
The good news is, as the tick problem gets worse, more preventatives are available for your furry friends. There are also topicals, oral medications, collars and even vaccines -- an option we as humans don't have.
Although we experienced a colder than normal winter here in Myrtle Beach, experts say it wasn't enough to kill off all the pests, like ticks.
When it comes to getting rid of ticks, time is of the essence. Dr. Ying said recent studies have shown it can take less than 16 hours to transmit Lyme disease. She said FDA regulated products will kill these pests within eight-hours, limiting the susceptibility of transmission.

She also recommends annual tests because it's something you can prevent, rather than having to manage afterwards.
“If you notice your pet has a tick on him or her, definitely take it into your vet as soon as possible and make sure we got the appropriate tests done. I would definitely recommend that every cat and dog be on a tick prevention, especially going into the summer time. The CDC has even issued a warning for people in this area saying that the prevalence of ticks is going to be much higher this year,” said Dr. Ying.
Vets recommend that pet owners make sure to take that extra step when bringing their pets indoors and thoroughly check through their fur. Also, pay attention to any limping or swollen joints.

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