How To Prevent Lyme Disease
People with pets should:
- Use reliable tick-preventive products. Speak with your veterinarian about what tick preventive product is right for your pet.
- Work with your veterinarian to decide whether to vaccinate your dog against Lyme disease. Your veterinarians advice may depend on where you live, your pet’s lifestyle and overall health, and other factors.
- When possible, avoid areas where ticks might be found. These include tall grasses, marshes and wooded areas.
- Check for ticks on both yourself and your animals once indoors.
- Clear shrubbery next to homes.
- Keep lawns well maintained.
As noted above, there are preventive Lyme disease vaccines available for dogs, but they aren’t necessarily recommended for every dog. Consult your veterinarian to see if the vaccination makes sense for your pets. If your veterinarian does recommend that your dog be vaccinated against Lyme disease, the typical protocol will involve an initial vaccination followed by a booster 2-4 weeks later and annual boosters after that.
Treatment Options For Dogs With Lyme Disease
The most effective way to combat Lyme disease in your dog is to get him started on a 30-day antibiotic regimen. Most vets will prescribe Doxycycline, which is given by mouth twice a day for four weeks. Happily, PetMD informs us that a dogs symptoms should improve dramatically within 24-48 hours. If your dog appears to be in significant pain, your vet may also prescribe an anti-inflammatory to make him more comfortable.
Unfortunately, antibiotics dont entirely eliminate the problem. Symptoms may dissipate, only to rear their ugly heads at a later date. The unfortunate truth is that once a dog is infected with Lyme disease, he will always carry the bacteria in his body. The possibility of a relapse is a very real problem, so owners of an infected dog must remain vigilant, looking out for the most common signals: fever, swollen lymph nodes, and lameness.
If you follow your vets advice for prevention and administer flea and tick medications properly, its unlikely youll ever have to deal with the headache of Lyme disease. Just be smart, and practice caution when you head out with your pup for that long-awaited camping trip.
How Would Lyme Disease Affect My Dog
This can be a complicated question because Lyme Disease can have different levels of effects across different types of dogs. For example, there are dogs who get this health condition and, particularly in certain areas of the United States, do not always show canine Lyme disease symptoms.
As shared by Meryl Littman, lead researcher at University of Pennsylvanias School of Veterinary Medicine explains, 95% of exposed dogs dont get sick, but they become Lyme antibody-positive on tests, which may scare people into thinking they need to be treated.
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First Do No Harm: Lyme Disease Vaccination May Present More Risks Than Benefits
Meryl P. Littman, VMD, Diplomate ACVIM
When veterinary clinicians decide whether to recommend a particular vaccine for a particular patient, risks and benefits are weighed. The vaccinometer tool, developed by Larry Glickman, was designed to help practitioners determine whether or not to recommend a vaccine.1
As we investigate Lyme disease vaccination, the questions posed by the vaccinometer help highlight many unanswered questions and potential risks related to this vaccine. With these concerns in mind, I choose first do no harm. In other words, if we use proper tick control, vaccination is unnecessary.
Question:What is the prevalence and risk of exposure/infection in your area ?
Answer: Risk of Lyme disease exposure/infection is high in my area, but proper tick control lowers the risk greatly.
The CDC website2 shows that 95% of human Lyme disease is found in 12 endemic states in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Upper Midwest U.S. In some endemic areas, seroprevalence in healthy dogs is as high as 70% to 90%.3 In high-risk areas, risk of exposure can be lowered dramatically with adequate tick control, which also decreases the risk for other tick-borne diseases, such as anaplasmosis, babesiosis, bartonellosis, ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
Question:How great is the risk of severe disease once the dog is infected ?
Answer:Risk of Lyme disease becoming severe is low, but possibly somewhat higher in retriever dogs.
Question:How effective is the vaccine?
Cowden Protocol For Dogs
The Cowden Protocol was developed by Dr. William Lee Cowden, MD initially for the treatment of late-stage Borrelia and Lyme co-infections. Since the protocol helps to resolve the majority of the root causes of most patients symptoms in humans, it can also be used to treat post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome and many other chronic health conditions of unclear cause in dogs as well.
The Cowden Protocol utilizes 15 different products including 8 microbial defense herbals that are taken in rotation.
The majority of the protocol is administered through herbal tinctures, whereby drops of the treatment are mixed in water before ingesting, and it is easy to put these drops in your dogs water dish as long as you make certain your pet drinks all of it.
In regards to dosing for a dog, below are guidelines:
- Large dogs would take about ½ of the human dose
- Medium dogs would take about ¼ of the human dose
- Small dogs would take 1/10 of the human dose
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Reducing Future Lyme Disease Risks
Symptoms Of Lyme Disease In Dogs
The symptoms of Lyme disease can vary from dog to dog, and can also vary in severity from mild to chronic and debilitating. Here are a few of the symptoms of Lyme disease you might see if your dog tests positive:
Many dogs may not ever get tested for Lyme disease until they are showing symptoms. By this point, the infection may cause lasting organ damage or recurrent joint problems.
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Lyme Disease Symptoms In Dogs
Veterinarians in the Northeast know Lyme disease well. Its symptoms are very noticeable in dogs, says Beverly Cappel, DVM, in Chestnut Ridge, NY. They look like theyre coming down with the flu. They ache everywhere, walk hunched over as though stepping on eggshells, limp, have no appetite, and move in slow motion.
Their necks are stiff, their heads ache, they dont want to look up at the light, and they squint.
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 Is Lyme Disease Diagnosed In Dogs
Lyme disease can be difficult to diagnose because the signs are nonspecific and can mimic other diseases, like autoimmune diseases or bacterial infections. Veterinarians diagnose Lyme disease by considering the dogs history, their exposure to ticks, whether the dog has been in an area affected by Lyme disease, physical examination findings, laboratory testing and response to therapy.
So, what does that all mean?
If your vet suspects your dog has Lyme disease, be prepared for testing and a bit of trial and error, because Lyme can be tricky! Since routine lab work is usually normal unless the kidneys are affected, additional testing can include joint taps , testing samples of swollen lymph nodes, testing for antibodies and X-rays to evaluate joints.
Here is where it gets complicated:
- You can test for Borrelia with specific antibody tests. However, if a dog tests positive for Borrelia, that doesnt necessarily mean that dog has Lyme diseaseit only means the dog has been exposed to Borrelia. If your dog tests positive, your vet can run a follow-up test called QC6 to confirm the infection.
- A dog can have Lyme disease, but if you test too early, antibodies would not have had time to form, causing the test to be falsely negative.
- Some dogs are tested too long after they were infected with Lyme and no longer have antibodies, which can also cause a test to be falsely negative.
How To Treat Tick Bites
A dog in the wrong place at the wrong time can be bit by dozens or even hundreds of ticks. Deer ticks go through three stages of life , and feed only once in each of these stages a blood meal ends each stage.
Larval ticks dine on mice and other small rodents, but nymphs and adults are a threat to dogs. Because they are small and their bites dont itch, ticks are easily overlooked, especially adult deer ticks and the nymphs of any species. Ticks prefer warm, moist conditions, so double-check under collars and around ears. If you arent sure what a lump or bump is, inspect it with a magnifying glass. Warts, similar skin growths, and nipples can feel like feeding ticks.
Be careful when removing a tick to grasp it with tweezers firmly at the head, as close to the dogs skin as possible, and slowly pull straight back. Never twist, press, burn, or apply irritating substances like kerosene to an attached tick because doing so can cause the parasite to expel the contents of its digestive tract, creating an unwanted hypodermic effect.
Cleaning a Dogs Tick Bite
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What To Expect At Home
Home care for dogs with Lyme disease is relatively straightforward. Doxycycline is usually given by mouth twice daily for at least 30 days. Improvement in the dogs symptoms should be noted within 24-48 hours. If the dogs condition fails to improve in 72 hours or worsens at any time, call your veterinarian.
How Is Lyme Disease Treated
Because the Lyme spirochete is a bacterium, it can be treated with antibiotics. The antibiotic of choice is doxycycline, followed by amoxicillin, then azithromycin. Treatment lasts for 4 weeks. Occasionally, the initial infection will recur, or the pet will become re-infected by being bitten by another infected tick.
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How Will You Know If Its Lyme
Class signs of Lyme disease in a dog include loss of appetite, listlessness, and limping. Sometimes a dog will have what is commonly referred to as shifting leg lameness. A dog will become lame on one leg , and the lameness will resolve on its own, only to show up days or even weeks later on either the same leg or a different limb. The dog may also exhibit a stiff gait or an arched back, and, usually, fever. In rare cases Lyme disease in dogs has been associated with kidney failure a life-threatening complication.
Bear in mind that you might not be thinking about tick bites when signs start to appear. Your dog may have been bitten by a tick in the dead of summer yet not start to feel ill till after Christmas since theres a long lag between infection and signs of sickness. Of course, she may also start to feel sick during the warm-weather months. Ticks can bite at any time of year. Yes, tick season extends from spring through early fall, but all you need is a day or two of weather approaching or exceeding the freezing mark during the dead of winter, and a tick will be able to do its thing. Thus, a tick can bite a dog during ski season in February, but the dog wont start to have any signs until July 4th. Those signs are not from the tick that just bit her.
How To Remove A Tick From Your Dog
If you do happen to find a tick on your dog, removing it quickly is the best way to prevent your dog from contracting Lyme disease through a bite. If youre lucky, you can remove the tick before it has a chance to latch on. Even if the tick has already attached itself to your dog, removing it quickly and removing the entire tick can help reduce exposure to disease.
Heres the proper procedure for removing a tick from your dog:
- Use a pair of tweezers to remove the tick from your dogs skin. If the tick hasnt attached itself to your dog yet, then plucking the tick off should be relatively simple.
- Once youve removed the tick, drop it in a jar of rubbing alcohol to kill it. Note that ticks are very resilient and difficult to kill by just smashing them. You also dont want to come into direct contact with the tick if you can help it.
- If the tick has already buried itself in the skin of your dog, twist the tick carefully to force it to detach itself. You can also hold a cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol to the entire tick and this should kill it. The goal is to avoid leaving the head of the tick buried in the dogs skin. This can cause infection and increase the chances of a Lyme contraction.
When youre done inspecting your dog for ticks and removing them, dont forget to do a tick inspection on yourself too. The effects of Lyme disease are even more serious in humans than they are in dogs.
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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 some topicals and a few tick collars which will kill ticks.
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.
So My Dog Is Positive Now What
The big question to ask yourself is whether or not your dog is showing symptoms for Lyme. Do they have a fever? Are they eating? Are they limping? Hows their energy level? If the answers to all of these are good and normal then your dog is what we call an asymptomatic positive. And now the can of worms opens. Im going to lay out what Ive found in my research for this article. BUT this is where that disclaimer at the top bears repeating. This is my opinion and, as with any disease, you need to consult with your veterinarian before deciding on any treatment course.
Onward. Lets hit the easy one first, your animal is positive for Lyme and has symptoms. They should, and will, be treated by your veterinarian. First choice antibiotics are doxycycline or amoxicillin. Typically dogs are treated for a month, though no one knows how long it takes to truly clear a dog of the carrier state . There is a second C6 test that tests for the same antibodies as the SNAP test but it quantifies the level of antibody present. There is some use in using this test in dogs receiving treatment as you can test before and after to see if antibody levels falling which may give you an idea of if the treatment is working .
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