Lyme disease in dogs is common and a potentially debilitating disease. Pet owners need to be aware of this disease and what preventative measures you can take to decrease the risk to your dogs.
Lyme disease (Borrelliosis) is a bacterial infection that is transmitted by the deer tick (Ixodes). It can infect humans, dogs, and many wildlife species. Lyme disease is passed to humans and other animals when a tick infected with the bacterium (Borrelia burgdefori) bites the person or animal and stays attached long enough to take a blood meal. In recent years, the number of cases of Lyme disease in both humans and animals in certain parts of Canada has been increasing. This is a growing concern for both the medical and veterinary professions alike. Cases of Lyme disease occur in areas where there are high numbers of deer ticks and wildlife species carrying the bacteria. Most cases of Lyme disease in Manitoba have been associated with the eastern and southeastern regions.
The deer tick
Dogs that spend time in wooded areas and long grass are at increased risk of exposure. Deer ticks in the nymph or immature stage are active from mid-May to mid-August. Adult deer ticks are most active in mid- to late fall and early spring. The larger, brown wood and dog ticks that are commonly found on dogs and cattle do not carry the Lyme disease bacterium.
Advances in laboratory technology have made it easier and less expensive to routinely test for Lyme disease in dogs. Did you know that the in clinic “heartworm test” we are now using actually screen for four different diseases? In one quick and simple blood test we can check for heartworm disease, Lyme disease, Erhlichia canis, and anaplasmosis. Lyme, erhlichia, and anaplasmosis are all diseases that are transmitted by ticks. Of these four diseases, it is not uncommon to have heartworm, Lyme, or Anaplasmosis in positives canine patients in this area!
Deer ticks have a 2 – 4 year life cycle. That is, it takes 2 -4 years for one egg-adult-egg generation to evolve. Therefore, deer ticks can be found all year long, including in winter.
A tick bite is required to transmit the disease as the bacterium is injected into the skin via tick saliva as the tick sucks blood. The infection is therefore not transmitted from pet to pet nor from pet to owner only via an infected tick bite, and not all ticks are infected with Borrelia. If the tick is not removed properly you may force the infection into your skin.
The most common symptoms of Lyme disease are sore joints, fever, and lack of appetite, fatigue, depression, and swollen lymph nodes. In severe cases the infection can cause severe arthritis, heart disease, or kidney disease. However, in many cases the symptoms are very subtle and unrecognizable to the owner.
Vaccination can help prevent the disease however the vaccine is not 100%. Lyme disease is a complex disease but when diagnosed, can be treated with specific antibiotics. When returning from tick-infested areas do a thorough search for ticks on both yourself and your animals. Ticks should be removed carefully. There are also many highly effective veterinary products that will repel and/or kill ticks on your dog before the tick can transmit the bacteria. Early removal of ticks reduces the chance that the tick will transmit Lyme disease.
The Beausejour/Whiteshell area is endemic for this problem. For more information about tick control products and Lyme disease, contact us.