Ticks! Ugh! Those little blood suckers give me the heebie jeebies. Not only do I have to worry about my dogs getting them, but I have to worry about my kids, and even me getting them. The worst: Lyme disease. According to the CDC, over 30,000 Americans are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year. Each year! Holy cow, that is a lot. In dogs, I am pretty sure it is even higher. The problem with dogs is so many are exposed but so few show symptoms.
Is my dog at risk? I mean, I only walk it on the side-walk and she only goes in my backyard which is well cared for? In short, YES. All dogs who come in contact with grass in this area are at risk. I have seen all the scenarios and I have seen them come up positive for Lyme disease. Your dog is not safe from those little blood suckers. Now you know why I hate them! They are everywhere!
I can see ticks on myself, what about my dog? The small Ixodes (‘deer tick”) tick can sometimes be only the size of a pin head and can be close to impossible to detect.
How can I prevent Lyme disease in my dog? There are several ways we can try to prevent the ticks from spreading Lyme disease. The first, kill the suckers! There are several tick preventatives that can be applied monthly that kill these ticks. Our practice leans towards Frontline. It is a product that has been leaned on for several years and still does a good job killing ticks in 24-28 hours. The makers of Frontline, Merial, have even come out with a new product that is ORAL, yes ORAL. Woohoo! Nexgard is an oral chew which can be given once a month. Although it is currently labeled only to kill the American Dog tick, I bet it is in the works to be approved for the Ixodes tick as well. I do not know about most owners, but for me, I have been waiting for an oral preventative. The topical is a great product, but with little kids, I have to find the right time to apply the product so my dog hugging children do not get it all over them. The second thing we can do to protect our pets that is not available for humans anymore, is vaccinate. The yearly vaccine is safe and can help prevent your dog from contracting Lyme disease.
How do I know if my dog has Lyme disease? Most veterinarians recommend yearly testing despite monthly preventatives and yearly vaccines. Lyme disease is everywhere around here so we would like to know if your dog is at risk for developing signs and symptoms.
Well, since you brought it up, what are the signs and symptoms? For people, the most common symptoms are flu-like. Not for our furry friends. Dogs exhibit symptoms which are more arthritis-like. If you see your dog struggling to get up one day or limping with no known injury, contact your vet.
My dog has Lyme disease! How do I treat it? Luckily, Lyme disease in dogs responds very well to doxycycline or minocycline. They do need it for a 30 day course, but it is worth it to see them feel much better.
Lyme disease is a difficult disease because it is very little understood. Experts are still doing studies to determine a solid protocol for dogs and Lyme disease. Even with the antibiotic, the Lyme disease can linger and even though the dog has antibodies to Lyme disease, it does not necessarily protect them from getting it again.
Karen R Pearson, DVM