Lyme Disease In Dogs: Signs And Prevention
Kathryn E. Reif
Dr. Reif is an assistant professor in the Department of Diagnostic Medicine/Pathobiology at the College of Veterinary Medicine, Kansas State University. Her research interests revolve around ticks and tick-borne diseases of veterinary, agricultural, and medical concerns. Research in Dr. Reifs laboratory includes studies of antimicrobial strategies to control tick-borne pathogens, tick-borne pathogen vaccine development, tick control, and studies of tick-borne pathogen transmission.
In the United States, Lyme disease is the most commonly diagnosed tick-borne disease of dogs and humans the primary causative agent, Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto, is transmitted via the bite of an infected blacklegged tick . The predominant vectors of B. burgerdorferi in the eastern half of the United States are Ixodes scapularis ticks, and on the Pacific coast of the United States they are Ixodes pacificus ticks. The pathogen is maintained in endemic areas through an enzootic cycle between wildlife reservoirs and Ixodes ticks. In highly endemic regions, more than 70% of local adult blacklegged ticks carry B. burgdorferi, posing a significant risk to both canine and public health. This article discusses the basic epidemiology, clinical presentation, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of Lyme disease in dogs in the United States.
Where Are Ticks In Toronto Located
Blacklegged ticks are found most often in forests and overgrown areas between wooded areas and open spaces. This makes for perfect breeding grounds in many parts of Toronto. Specifically,
- The Rouge Valley, east of Toronto
- Don Valley trail system
The Public Health Agency of Canada works with provincial authorities to identify where populations of infected blacklegged ticks have been established or are spreading.
This is the latest Ontario Lyme Disease Map from Public Health Ontario:
More information can be found here:
In other parts of Ontario, known endemic areas for Lyme disease are:
- Point Pelee National Park
Expansion areas of risk in Ontario include:
- Kingston and surrounding areas along Lake Ontario
- Along the St. Lawrence Valley to the border with Quebec and northeast towards Ottawa
- Northwestern Ontario in the Lake of the Woods region
- Pinery Provincial Park on the shores of Lake Huron
For the most up-to-date information, visit canada.ca/LymeDisease
How Much Does It Cost To Treat Lyme Disease
A long treatment course sounds pricey, doesnt it? The initial bloodwork for the Lyme disease test costs around $80. Once the diagnosis is confirmed, you must focus on treatment for your dogs Lyme disease.
Antibiotics arent cheap, and in some areas, a two-week supply can cost $400 or more. Blood tests are also needed, which cost about $80, and an exam fee can be $40 or more. How can you reduce these costs?
Consider pet insurance for this or any potential emergency you and your pet may happen upon. So long as it was not a pre-existing condition, pet insurance companies will pay for treatment medications, blood tests and potentially exam fees.
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The Symptoms Of Lyme Disease In Dogs
Limping — Lyme disease can cause swollen, painful joints. This is the biggest indicator of the disease since the other symptoms are so common as youll see in a minute.
If your pet starts limping or showing signs of lameness thats important signal. In fact, you might see your dog limping on one side for a couple of days and then the pain shifts to another leg. This shifting lameness is a distinct sign of Lyme disease and youll want to report it to your veterinarian.
Joint Swelling Swollen joints combined with limping is a good reason to contact your veterinarian and have your dog tested for Lyme disease.
Lack of Appetite — If your dogs appetite suddenly decreases — especially if you have a dog who is normally very excited for food, thats usually a sign your dog isnt feeling well. While this symptom alone could have any number of causes, if this symptom shows up in concert with others on this list, Lyme disease may be the culprit.
Sluggish — If your pet also seems low energy, thats a useful signal too. Lethargy and low appetite are indicators that something is off.
Fever One way to tell if your dog has a fever is to touch his nose. A healthy nose is cool and damp. A hot and dry nose is an indication of a fever.
Except for the shifting lameness and swollen joints, these other symptoms are generic indicators that your dog isnt feeling well. Your veterinarian will run a blood test to determine if Lyme Disease is present.
I Found A Tick On My Dog What Do I Do
If the tick is still attached, and your veterinarian is open and able to squeeze you in, prioritize this appointment. If you cannot get in to your vet right away, removing the tick yourself is your next best option. Use fine-tipped tweezers to remove it as close to the dog’s skin as possible. It’s most important to remove the tick at the head, as this is where they can transmit the disease from. It takes at least 24 hours for an infected tick to transmit the bacterium responsible for Lyme disease, which makes removing the tick promptly so important.
If possible, take a clearly focused picture of the tick before removal to show your vet and then save the tick in a zip-lock bag. If the species of tick can be identified, then your vet will know what diseases the tick can potentially transmit.
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How Is Lyme Disease In Dogs Treated
Lyme disease in dogs is treated with a longer course of an antibiotic, usually doxycycline. Pups with typical signs of Lyme disease usually respond to treatment within days, and antibiotics are continued for up to a total of 28 days. Dogs with the rare kidney form of the disease require aggressive treatment, and the prognosis is guarded.
Can I Catch Lyme Disease From My Dog
Dogs are not a direct source of infection for people. Lyme disease cant be transmitted from one pet to another, nor from pets to humans, except through tick bites. However, a carrier tick could come into your house on your dogs fur and get on you.
If your dog is diagnosed with Lyme disease, you and any other pets have probably been in the same outdoor environment and may also be at risk, so it is a good idea to consult with your physician and veterinarian to see whether you should test other pets or family members.
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Whos At Risk And Where Are Ticks Found
The risk of getting Lyme disease is higher:
- for people who spend time in woodland or moorland areas
- from March to October because more people take part in outdoor activities
Ticks are found throughout the UK and in other parts of Europe and North America. There are a high number of ticks in the Scottish Highlands.
Itâs thought only a small proportion of ticks carry the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. Being bitten doesnât mean youâll definitely be infected. However, itâs important to be aware of the risk and speak to a GP if you start to feel unwell.
Common Misconceptions About Lyme Disease:
1. If a dog tests positive for Lyme disease, it means she has it.
2. Dogs are much more likely than people to become ill from Lyme disease.
3. A dog infected with Lyme disease will tend to start showing symptoms within a month, and sometimes within the first 18 hours.
4. Dogs can transmit Lyme disease to people.
5. Lyme disease strikes only in warm weather.
A lot of times, a dog will test positive for Lyme disease, and her owners get nervous that their pet is sick and needs treatment, but the dog is fine. How can that be?
Its because testing positive for Lyme simply means that antibodies to the illness have been detected in the dogs blood. It does not mean that the animals body is actually being affected by the disease. How can that be?
The fact that a dog can test positive for Lyme disease yet not actually have it in a way that matters has led to a lot of nervous owners, and sometimes, even veterinarians who have over-treated. To clear up the misconceptions, heres what you need to know.
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Correctly Diagnosing Lyme Disease
A Lyme-literate doctor is a licensed board-certified medical doctor who also has a specialty in diagnosing and treating Lyme disease with the most advanced equipment and technologies.
Lyme-literate doctors know how to get the correct diagnosis early, so you are not at risk for developing late-stage Lyme disease, which can be debilitating.
Most family practitioners test for Lyme disease using the only two tests available today, the ELISA and the Western Blot. Unfortunately, these tests are only accurate if the Lyme antibodies are active at the time of your test. If they are not active, your test can offer a negative result.
The results do not mean you are negative for Lyme disease. It means you were negative for the antibodies associated with Lyme. Lyme-literate doctors know the truth that antibodies can go inactive at times and hide in the walls of your bloodstream, going undetected by insufficient tests.
There are Lyme-literate doctors available who can help you get an accurate diagnosis. Some of the best doctors are outside the U.S., like Mexico, where leaders in the industry practice.
Do whatever it takes to meet with a Lyme-literate doctor because if your Lyme disease is misdiagnosed or goes untreated, your body will suffer.
Time For A Refresher On Ticks
Tick-borne diseases like Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, and babesiosis are a serious health concern in New Hampshire. Although ticks are likely to be active any time the temperature is above freezing, you are more likely to contract a tick-borne illness in the summer months.
While there are several tick-borne illnesses to watch out for in our area, they are carried by the smaller Deer Ticks, not Dog Ticks. Says Marika Henegan, MD, a provider at Cheshires Urgent Primary Care Visits . A baby, or nymph, Deer Tick can be hard to notice, which is why checking yourself thoroughly for ticks is important after you have been in the woods or long grass.
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Most Of The Tick Control Products We Use Dont Repel Ticks
There are many good options for flea and tick preventatives on the market. Theres the Lyme vaccine. Theres the more old-school route of tick collars. And there are perhaps the most commonly used monthly topical and oral options.
If youre one of the countless pet owners who gives their dog a chewable medication or squirts a preventative oil on their skin, you might be surprised to learn that neither of those tick control tactics actually repel the little bloodsuckers from your dogs body.
Owners come to us and say, Well, you know, were using this flea and stuff, but we still see ticks on our dog,’ recalls Bloom, who practices veterinary medicine in a heavily wooded section of New Jersey. Most of these flea and tick products will not actually repel the tick, will not keep the tick from walking onto your dog, and will not keep the tick from biting your dog. What theyll do is theyll kill the tick after the tick has bitten.
And it turns out, thats perfectly fine.
If a tick bites your dog, it can transmit the bacteria, but only if it stays attached, Bloom elaborates. If the tick is killed with less than 24 hours attachment to your dog, it wont transmit disease.
If youre concerned about ticks hitching a ride into your house, though, there are some products that do physically repel ticks a tick collar, for example. But Goldstein argues thats not always in your familys best interest.
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How Do I Prevent My Dog From Getting Ticks
It is very difficult to prevent your dogs exposure to ticks. Ticks can attach to your dog when he or she goes with you on walks, hikes, or during any outdoor activities.
The best way to prevent ticks from attaching to your dog is by the regular use of tick control products. Your veterinarian can advise you about the best product for your dog and your situation. Your veterinarian is also aware of diseases that are common in your area and can pose a risk to your dog.
If you have a tick problem in your yard consider:
- treating the outdoor environment
- making a landscape change to make the environment less tick friendly this can be done by providing a 3 foot buffer between the lawn and any woods. Mulch, wood chips, or gravel work well, and help to decrease the migration of ticks into yards.
- ridding your yard of wild animals
Often more ticks are present or they are more active at certain times of the year. Your veterinarian can tell you how to avoid locations where large numbers of ticks are found.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Lyme Disease
Dogs can display several forms of Lyme disease, but the most common symptoms are lameness, swollen lymph nodes, joint swelling, fatigue, and loss of appetite. In addition, serious kidney complications have been associated with Lyme disease in dogs.
Clinical signs of Lyme disease in horses include shifting-leg lameness, generalized stiffness, hypersensitivity to touch, weight loss, and poor performance. Sometimes, the bacteria can infect the central nervous system, leading to neurologic symptoms.
Treating Canine Lyme Disease
Luckily, Lyme disease is relatively easy to treat in dogs with a course of antibiotics if it is caught early.
A few of the major challenges of Lyme disease in both dogs and humans are that the symptoms of this disease often mimic the symptoms of other illnesses. This makes Lyme disease harder to diagnose without running bloodwork. Another barrier to diagnosis is that the disease itself may not exhibit symptoms for days or even weeks after exposure to the infected tick.
This makes it much harder for physicians to put two and two together to diagnose the illness as Lyme disease. The good news is that the treatment of Lyme disease is pretty straightforward. However, you dont want to let the disease progress without treatment since it can ultimately affect the kidneys and can potentially cause lasting chronic damage.
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The Best Protection Is Prevention
You may think of ticks as being prevalent in the woods, and thats true. Yet, they can even be in suburban backyards. Ticks prefer long grass and shrubbery so keep your grass cut short and shrubs trimmed back to minimize their hiding places.
For tick protection, your veterinarian may suggest a tablet that lasts 3 months called Bravecto. It kills fleas and ticks for 3 months. There are also monthly oral cheables such as credelio, or a topical Vectra 3D.
The best prevention is avoidance. Ticks are attached to grasses and shrubs and low hanging tree limbs. When humans and animals brush against these, the ticks will attach to hair and clothing. When these areas are wet, the ticks are much more likely to attach.
Youll also want to know that ticks can thrive year-round especially in warmer climates like the Southeast. Ask your veterinarian for their recommendations on tick protection.
Also, give your dog a thorough check when you come in after a walk especially, if your dog was near grass or shrubs where ticks like to hide. When it comes to your pet, ticks enjoy burrowing at the base of the tail, around the ears, and in between the paws.
We also carry a yearly vaccination protecting against Lyme disease if you know your dog enjoys going on hikes, or generally lives a lifestyle where their exposure may be higher.
Can I Give My Dog Lyme Disease Or Vice Versa
You cant give your dog Lyme disease, nor can your dog infect you. However, if either one of you has a tick, you should both be checked out by a medical professional. Its entirely possible that the tick may have traveled from your body to your dogs, or vice versa, without you realizing it. If you have an open wound, there is alsoa slight chance that the bacteria from the tick can pass through it, so make sure to be extra vigilant to keep yourself safe in those cases.
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How To Prevent Lyme Disease
The best way to prevent Lyme disease in dogs is to prevent your animal from contracting ticks. For this, you should deworm your dog as often as the vet recommends, making your dog?s health a priority. Aerosols, necklaces or pipettes are a good alternative to protect your pet against these parasites.
It is also important that, if you decide to take your dog to the countryside or green areas where ticks may abound, you always check its coat on your return. If you find a tick, remove it immediately, as this will reduce the possibility of spreading the disease. Take a look at our article to know what to do if a tick bites you.
If you want to read similar articles to How to Know if Your Dog Has Lyme Disease, we recommend you visit our Pets category.
How Long After Treatment Should The Horse/dog Be Re
Antibodies decrease slowly but gradually after the pathogen is cleared from the hosts circulation. Re-testing should not be performed too early. For horses/dogs with positive values for antibodies to OspF but negative values for antibodies to OspC , retesting should be done 3 months after the treatment was started. For horses with a positive OspC antibody value retesting can be done 6-8 weeks after the treatment started. At the time of retesting, a decrease of antibody levels can be expected in successfully treated animals. Serum antibodies may not have completely disappeared at this time. However, they should have dropped by about 40% of the original positive value.
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