Lyme Disease in Dogs

Lyme disease - dogs can get it too?

Yes, dogs do get Lyme disease.  In fact, your puppy is much more likely than you are to contract this disease.  However, Lyme disease manifests completely differently in man’s best friend compared with the human experience. In the dog, symptoms of Lyme disease do not begin to appear for weeks to months after infection, if at all. Symptoms may include: lethargy, loss of appetitive, fever, and often limping. The good news is that Lyme disease in dogs responds rapidly to a course of the proper antibiotic. It is important to be aware of Lyme disease since we live in the Northeast, which has the highest concentration of Lyme Disease infections in the country. Some easy preventive techniques can help decrease the risk of your puppy being exposed to and catching Lyme disease.

Causes

Lyme disease is caused by a type of bacterial organism called Borrelia burgdorferi. It is transmitted to dogs by the deer tick, Ixodes scapularis. The tick typically attaches itself to deer, however, a human or dog provides a suitable host as well. The ticks are most often found in the borders between fields and wooden areas. Once a tick attaches it requires a minimum of 24-36 hours before B. burgdorferi can be transmitted.  Therefore, if a tick is removed within 24 hours of attachment the host will likely not get the disease.


Female deer tick with Dime for Comparison
(http://www.ent.iastate.edu/imagegal/ticks/iscap/)

Prevention

There are several effective tick control products available. I recommend Frontline®, which paralyzes the mouth of the tick and causes it to drop off and die prior to the transmission deadline. Tick collars containing the active ingredient Amitraz are very effective, but can be harmful if a pet chews on them.  There is also a vaccine that prevents infection by neutralizing the Lyme organism before it can be transmitted to the dog. Annual boosters continue the vaccine-based immunity.  Since we live in an area where Lyme Disease is prevalent, I recommend that dogs use the preventative Frontline as well as the vaccine. As neither are 100% effective, using both in combination provides the best protection.

Helpful Tips

  • You should apply Frontline monthly beginning March 1st and ending December 1st. Year- round application is now recommended, as we do see ticks every month of the year.
  • Make sure the Frontline is being applied properly; if you have any questions speak to your veterinarian
  • There are many Frontline imitations available that have varying effectiveness, so make sure the product you are using is veterinarian approved. The only way to know for sure if the product is safe and effective is to ask your veterinarian.
  • Check your dog for ticks daily by petting him/her, especially around the head and neck.  This is especially important after they have been in wooded areas or fields.

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