Adirondack Veterinary Service

LYME DISEASE AND PREVENTION IN DOGS

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Lyme Disease is a multi-system disorder caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. It is also the most commonly reported tick-borne disease in the U.S. human population. The ticks that carry this bacterium are widespread and now the disease can be found in all 48 of the contiguous United States.

In New York State Lyme Disease is carried by the deer tick (Ixodes scapularis). This tick transmits the bacteria responsible for the disease. To get a blood meal, a tick climbs onto low growing vegetation and uses itís forelegs to sense a host animal and grab onto it. If it is an infected host, such as a white-footed mouse, then the tick ingests the bacteria in a blood meal and becomes an infective carrier. The tick can retain the infection throughout its lifecycle and pass it on to subsequent hosts such as you or your dog. It usually takes 48 hours once a tick is attached for it to transmit the Lyme bacteria to a susceptible host.

Some animals and humans may contract the disease and show no signs of illness. If the disease does become symptomatic some of the common signs in dogs are lameness, fever, swollen joints, anorexia, or lethargy. Dogs may not show signs for two to five months post-infection. Antibiotics may help in mitigating the signs of the disease but do not stop it. At this time there is no evidence that dogs can spread the disease directly to their owners. However, they can bring infected ticks into the home or yard.

There are certain factors that increase your dogís risk to contracting Lyme disease and they are:

  1. Time spent in the woods or in tall grass/weeds. Ticks generally live in 3 to 5 foot high vegetation.
  2. Time spent outdoors during the peak tick season from April - November in New York.
  3. Visits to areas where Lyme disease is prevalent.

Diagnosing this infection can be difficult because signs arenít always present. However, we can run a simple blood test to see if your dog is infected. Screening for Lyme disease is included with every Heartworm screen we conduct. You will see it appear on your invoice as a 4D Snap Test.

Since prevention is always the best medicine we recommend your dog be administered a monthly, topical tick preventative. Amitraz impregnated collars should also be worn by your dog if it frequents areas where ticks are prevalent. Since a vaccination is available against Lyme disease we recommend your dog be vaccinated annually if he/she is at risk. In addition, daily inspection of your dog is also valuable to remove any ticks that may be found. For more information feel free to ask us any questions you may have at your dogís next annual checkup or visit www.LymePrevention.com.

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