Tackling Lyme Disease: How Researchers Plan To Disarm Ticks
The treatment options for chronic Lyme disease, a tick-borne illness, are still limited. But now, researchers are pursuing a new approach: Eliminating the cause directly at the source.
Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria can trigger chronic diseases but a remedy may be in sight
Lyme disease may eventually be a thing of the past, says Kim Lewis, professor of biology and director of the Antimicrobial Discovery Center at Northeastern University in the US city of Boston.
The reason for this optimism is the rediscovery of a chemical that is deadly to the bacterium causing the tick-borne illness but harmless to animals. But more on that in a moment.
Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi, which lurks in small rodents such as rats or mice, as well as in deer. They do not show symptoms of the disease. Ticks serve as vectors, meaning they become infected when they feed on blood from these animals and transfer the bacteria to new hosts such as humans.
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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.
Questions To Ask Your Veterinarian
If your dog has a positive Lyme test but no symptoms of the disease or protein in the urine, ask your veterinarian why he or she is recommending treatment. Experts currently recommend against antibiotic therapy under these circumstances because the dogs immune system is holding the bacteria in check and antibiotics are unable to eliminate the infection.
Dogs who have contracted Lyme disease do not develop prolonged, protective immunity and can be reinfected at a later date. Talk to your veterinarian about how best to prevent future infections. Options include measures to prevent the ticks that carry Lyme disease from biting your dog and Lyme vaccination.
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Is There A Vaccine For Lyme Disease In Dogs
Yes. Your veterinarian may recommend the Lyme vaccine if your dog lives in a high-risk area or is in high-risk situations regularly. Like all vaccines, the Lyme vaccine is not 100 percent effective. Even with vaccination, your dog will still need monthly preventatives, and you should still take other preventative measures, like avoiding areas with ticks and manually checking your dog for ticks.
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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Signs Your Dog Has Lyme Disease
Ticks can cause all kinds of problems for dogs, but Lyme disease is one of the most serious. When a dog is infected with Lyme disease, you may notice that they are lethargic and running a fever. Other symptoms include joint pain and loss of appetite. Leg and body pain may also be present, and swollen lymph nodes are also a possibility. These symptoms may cause your dog to be more still than normal or walk with a stiff, painful gait.
Symptoms may seem to vanish only to reappear later. Lyme disease has many long-term effects, and it is a difficult disease to diagnose because the symptoms dont stand out in any way. To diagnose Lyme disease, your veterinarian will ask you about the possibility of tick exposure and watch any symptoms, as well as complete diagnostic testing. Once your dog has been properly diagnosed, your veterinarian will provide you with treatment options.
Since all dog breeds are susceptible to Lyme disease, it is a good idea to use flea and tick preventatives year-round, especially if you take your dog hunting or on other outdoor adventures. In addition, it is a good idea to get your pooch vaccinated against Lyme disease.
- Swollen and sore joints
What Are The Symptoms Of Lyme Disease In Dogs
When we hear about Lyme disease cases in humans, we are often warned about a bullseye shaped rash that appears around the tick bite.
This often leads to an urgent trip to a doctor, and ultimately a Lyme disease diagnosis if it fits.
Unfortunately, it is not as simple for our canine friends.
Lyme disease in dogs does not manifest in the form of a rash or other outward symptoms that can be seen on a physical exam.
Lyme disease symptoms can be subtle and often generalized, making it a bit more challenging to detect.
Some of the most common signs of Lyme disease in dogs include:
As you can see, the standard symptoms of Lyme disease can be vague.
Discussing these symptoms with your veterinarian can help them put Lyme disease on their radar, as well as analyzing the risk of exposure in your region.
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Lyme Disease From Adult Ticks
Adult ticks will seek new hosts throughout the fall. Their peak activity between late October and early November.
Adults prefer taller vegetation. Theyre usually seen 3 off the ground on high grasses or leaves. Adults often use deer as hosts but theyre also happy with humans, dogs or horses.
Its believed that 50% of adult ticks carry Lyme disease in endemic areas of the Northeast.
While adult ticks can carry Lyme disease, theyre less likely to pass it on to their host.
This is because theyre larger and easier to detect within the first 24 to 36 hours.
Note: the timing of peak activity for each life stage of the tick may differ depending on the area you live. Check with local health departments for peak tick activity where you live.
What To Expect At The Vets Office
If your pet has been diagnosed with uncomplicated Lyme disease, this is what you can expect to happen at your veterinarians office.
- Depending on the type of test used to screen for Lyme disease, a confirmatory test may be necessary.
- Urine protein screening — In general, only dogs who have symptoms of Lyme disease or protein in their urine should be treated with antibiotics.
- Dogs with protein in their urine should have regularly scheduled rechecks to monitor their condition.
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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.
What Is Lyme Disease How Does My Dog Get Infected
Lyme disease is an infectious disease caused by bacteria called Borrelia. The bacteria are most commonly carried by the deer tick . Infection occurs when a dog is bitten by an infected tick. It appears that the disease is not transmitted until the tick has fed for approximately 12 hours. The tick itself becomes infected by feeding on infected mice, birds, deer, and other animals.
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When To Contact Your Vet
If your pet is showing any of the signs of Lyme disease, book an appointment with your vet ASAP, especially if you have found a tick on them recently. You know your dog best. If they dont have the symptoms listed above but you are still concerned, its always best to contact your vet.
Find out whether you are eligible for free or low cost PDSA veterinary treatment by using our online checker.
How Can I Prevent My Dog From Contracting A Tick
Always remember that prevention should be high priority when discussing tick-borne illnesses. At Poster Veterinary Associates, we offer a wide selection of parasite prevention products to prevent ticks and other parasites from infecting your pet.
However, no method is 100% effective, so carefully consider outings and apply tick control treatments before taking your dog to environments where ticks may thrive. You should also check your dog and yourself for ticks when you arrive home.
Also check your dog periodically throughout tick season . They are typically dark brown or black in color, and can transmit diseases within 3 to 6 hours of biting your pup.
If you discover a tick, quickly remove it to prevent infection. Consider bringing your dog to our animal hospital, where a vet will be able to remove it safely.
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The Best Way To Remove A Tick
Upon discovering a live tick on your pet, your first instinct might be to pull it off immediately. But rather than doing so with your bare hands, experts caution that patience is the safer route.
“The best way to take off every tick is with a sharpened tweezers and to kind of grab them as far down by the head as you can and pull them off,” explains Goldstein. “People ideally should wear gloves when they’re doing it, if they can, or just be careful. Theoretically, if you have a cut on your finger and you squish a tick and get the blood from the tick, you could get infected with something. So be careful not to do that.”
What Should You Do About A Tick Bite
If you experience a tick bite, the best way to remove it is by taking the following steps:
- Tug gently but firmly with blunt tweezers near the head of the tick at the level of your skin until it releases its hold on your skin.
- Avoid crushing the ticks body or handling the tick with bare fingers as you could expose yourself to the bacteria in the tick.
- Wash the bite area thoroughly with soap and water.
- Do not use kerosene, petroleum jelly or hot cigarette butts to remove the tick.
- Do not squeeze the ticks body with your fingers or tweezers.
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History Of Dogs Living Through Lyme Disease
In the past, it may have been difficult for dogs to surviveLyme disease due to the inability to diagnose the disease. Now, there arenumerous tests for vets to use to determine whether or not your pooch has Lymedisease. Fortunately, this means that fewer dogs die from Lyme disease now.
To prevent Lyme disease, you can have your dog vaccinatedand use flea and tick preventatives. If your dog does contract Lyme disease,however, they are likely to exhibit the symptoms listed above. These symptomsare caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium in the bite of an infectedtick.
Since ticks can live in many outdoor settings, it isimportant to be diligent about prevention and removal of any ticks. It takes morethan two days for ticks to transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease to theirhosts, so if you think your pet may have been exposed to ticks, you should checkthem out and remove any ticks that you do find.
Luckily for dogs, modern medicine has made diagnosing andtreating Lyme disease much easier than it was just a couple decades ago. Withdifferent treatments available, more dogs make a full recovery after contractingthe disease, but it can also cause further health complications.
Can Lyme Disease Be Transmitted From Pet To Pet
Lyme disease is seen in dogs, cats, and humans but thankfully, no, Lyme disease is not contagious, as it can only be transmitted via a tick bite. However, if one of your dogs or cats develops it, youll want to get all of your pets checked for the illness, as they may all be at risk of exposure to the ticks that infected your sick fur baby. You may even want to get yourself checked as well, as people are usually in the same places as their pets.
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What To Do If Your Dog Has Been Exposed To Lymes Disease
Dear Dr. Hershey,
My vet just told me that my dog, Harper, just tested positive for Lymes Disease. He seems to be normal otherwise, what does this mean for him, and is it contagious to me?
Dear Mary Beth,
This is a timely question because the ticks are out in Minnesota. Ticks live for many years, and can survive the winter in a dormant stage.
Ticks become active when the ground temperature is about 45 degrees Fahrenheit, so sometimes ticks will be out even if there is snow on the ground. Because ticks become active even when it is relatively cold outside, many pet owners are caught by surprise in the early spring when they find a tick on their dog.
Ticks find their hosts by detecting breath and body odors, or by sensing heat, moisture, vibrations, even shadows. Ticks cant jump or fly, but they are well adapted to finding and latching onto hosts.
Ticks will rest on the tips of grasses or shrubs in a position known as questing. In this position, they hold onto the plant with some of its legs, while having their first pair of legs outstretched, just waiting for a host to brush by. Although Minnesota is home to several types of tick, it is the black-legged tick , commonly known as the deer tick, which can transmit Lyme Disease .
Unlike people, we think that only 5 to 10 percent of all dogs exposed to Lyme bacteria ever get sick with the disease.
Veterinarians will routinely screen for exposure to Lyme bacteria.
So How Do You Prevent Lyme Disease In Your Dog
If there is one thing you should take away today its this
The more toxic your dog is, the more likely he is to suffer an exaggerated response to Lyme disease.
Research shows it 95% of dog bitten by a tick, are likely to have either no symptoms or mild flu-like symptoms.
For the 5% of dogs who get really sick, how can you blame the tick when the other 95% do fine?
The problem was already there before the tick came along the bacteria in the tick was just the final small blow to an already weakened immune system.
While conventional veterinarians would have you protect your dog with sprays and vaccines holistic vets know the secret is a healthy immune system.
They know that bacteria and parasites only prey on weak animals. And that a healthy immune system is what separates the 5% of dogs with Lyme disease from the healthy 95%.
Here are some tips to help bolster your dogs immune system:
- Feed a fresh, whole food species-appropriate diet.
- Avoid any and all unnecessary vaccines .
- Work with a holistic vet to replace any conventional drugs, vaccines and medications. Instead choose holistic, natural options that wont harm the immune system.
Its time to stop fearing Lyme disease and see it for what it is a signal that there was already something wrong with your dog.
So, take that worry and refocus it on improving your dogs immune health instead.
Do that and research shows youll likely never face the challenge of Lyme disease in your dog.
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One of the more insidious illnesses that people can get from parasites is the condition known as Lyme disease. The condition takes the form of a blood-borne bacterial infection that produces symptoms that gradually increase in their severity, causing the infected person a great deal of discomfort and annoyance. Lyme disease is almost always found in areas that have a large deer population combined with plenty of forest with substantial brush that the parasites can hide in. Whilst the condition is not usually lethal, the symptoms can be incredibly debilitating if the condition is left untreated.