Steering Clear of Lyme Disease in Dogs

BartonHeights_iStock_000039999632_LargeWhile it may seem a little early in the year, springtime is prime tick season. Besides the fact that ticks are just gross, they can carry several nasty diseases that can be transmitted to your pets (and you).

One of the more common tick-borne diseases in this neck of the woods is Lyme disease, a bacterial infection that certain species of ticks can carry. While it is not possible to eliminate ticks from Pennsylvania, it is possible to prevent the effects of Lyme disease in dogs. Keep reading to learn how to protect your pet.

Learning About Lyme Disease in Dogs

Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi that is carried in the tick’s digestive system. Not just any tick can carry this infection, it is specifically transmitted by the Ixodes, or deer, tick.

When an infected tick feeds on your pet, it can regurgitate the infection into the host’s bloodstream as it feeds. A quick bite isn’t enough to do any harm, rather it takes about 24 hours for disease transmission to occur.

Pets who have been infected with Lyme disease do not get sick right away. In fact, it is not abnormal to not see any signs of illness until several months after a bite occurs. Symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs can include:

  • Arthritis (lameness and/or pain)
  • Swelling of one or more joints
  • Fever
  • Decreased appetite
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Lethargy

If a pet is suspected to have Lyme disease, a blood test can be performed which shows antibodies to the bacteria that causes the disease in order to aid in a diagnosis.

Preventing Tick-Borne Disease

A sick pet is no fun, and preventing tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease is definitely the way to go where possible. Because pets in the Barton Heights Veterinary Hospital live in a heavy tick area, it is important for pet owners to take tick prevention seriously.

Be sure to:

Avoid ticks when possible – Ticks are most prevalent this time of year and tend to be found in wooded areas and tall grasses where deer frequent. Avoiding these areas during tick season when possible can certainly be an effective way to prevent Lyme disease in dogs.

Use good preventative options – Modern medicine has afforded us quite a few safe, effective options to force ticks to detach from your pet before Lyme disease transmission can occur. We carry several options in our in-house pharmacy and are happy to help you decide which is best for your pet’s individual needs.

Pay attention to your pet – Because Lyme disease transmission takes about 24 hours to occur, meticulous grooming can be an effective tick preventative option. Closely examine your dog, including in ears, armpits, and under the tail, after spending time in a potentially tick-infested area. Learn how to properly remove a tick from your pet.

Vaccination is key – If your pet is at risk for contracting Lyme disease, we recommend vaccinating your dog annually. If your pet has been vaccinated, it is important to note that some blood tests for the disease can show as positive even though there is no infection.

Thankfully, Lyme disease in dogs is a fairly treatable disease. If diagnosed, most cases can be successfully treated with antibiotics. If untreated, the disease may become chronic. This can result in irreversible damage to the kidneys.

There are many perks to living in Pennsylvania, but the ticks are not one of them. With a little effort, though, and our help, we can prevent Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases in your pets and keep everyone happy and healthy.