Sunday, July 26, 2009

Lyme disease on the rise

I pulled the first deer tick off my new puppy yesterday (ok, I made my dad do it). Our puppy's 6 weeks old and she's only been living in Dedham for about 5 days, with the majority of the time spent indoors. I'm crossing my fingers she won't get Lyme Disease. If she doesn't, she'll be luckier than our family friend who's recovering from her second severe attack of Lyme Disease (possibly from a tick off our cat) in the past two years, and my uncle (in Sherborn) who's been under the weather for nearly 4 years due to the disease.

Bites from a deer tick carrying Lyme Disease typically have a "bull's eye" look to them. Photo from

A severe tick-o-phobe myself, I check myself thoroughly after any extended time outside. But I don't check my animals all the time. The vet says we shouldn't put a tick collar on my cat in case he chews it off (as he has previously) and my puppy gets hold of it. Tick collars are actually pretty toxic. Who knew?

Ticks are a fact of life in Dedham, and always have been, but rampant Lyme Disease is not. Recently, the warmest winters on record have allowed more ticks to survive and reproduce for a longer period than normal, leading to a surge in Lyme Disease throughout the region.

According to the Patriot Ledger, in MA "The number of cases has more than doubled since 2001". The usual list of "maybes" accompanies this stat -- maybe we are better at recognizing it, maybe cases are being reported more frequently, etc. -- but nobody can deny that warmer winters mean more ticks. For the squeamish like me, that's bad enough.

More info on the subject:
PatriotLedger: Lyme Disease on the Rise in Massachusetts May, 2009
WickedLocal: Tick Bites Leading to Dramatic Rise of Lyme Disease in Brookline March, 2009
Boston Globe: Mild Winter Raises Lyme Disease Risk, Doctors Say (2006)
Dedham Veterinary Associates: What you Need to Know about Lyme Disease

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