Lyme disease or Borrelia burgdorferi is a common communicable bacterial disease that can infect humans and animals alike. After a bite from an infected tick that sticks to it for 24 to 48 hours, the infection can spread through the bloodstream to many different parts of the body, affecting organs and even causing joint problems. Lyme can seriously affect your pet’s overall health and well-being; It is important to know where ticks are most common.
While ticks can transmit many different infections, one with the highest rate of infection is Lyme disease. In some areas, the rate of infected ticks can be as high as 50%. High areas of infection are usually located in the northeast of the United States, or more specifically the New England Area. The Pacific Coast and upper Midwest regions also mimic similar infection rates and high numbers of infected ticks, accounting for 95% of all reported cases from those regions. Be wary of densely wooded or vegetated areas as these are generally breeding grounds for ticks. Swampy areas and overgrown or tall grass are also places to look out for as they harbor many ticks.
Veterinarians have estimated that 50% of dogs in areas where infected ticks thrive are infected with Lyme. While we are also susceptible to Lyme disease, our dogs are capable of it 100 times more likely to encounter infected ticks. While the numbers for the infection rate are high, they’re probably higher than reported because many dogs go untested or diagnosed.
Dangers of Lyme disease in dogs
Given that 5 to 10% of animals with Lyme disease will ever show clinical symptoms of the disease it is important to look out for differences in your dog. Signs can appear when the stage of the disease has developed into a longstanding or chronic problem. This is usually 2 to 5 months after initial infection, but signs can develop later. Watch out for the most common and obvious signs, and contact your veterinarian if you have any concerns.
- lethargy / loss of energy
- Newly developed stiffness
- loss of appetite
- swelling of the joints
- discomfort or pain
If left untreated, there is a risk of more serious disease. Paralysis, kidney failure and the development of neurological diseases are more extreme health risks that can develop. This increases their risk of developing life-changing diseases that can affect their quality of life and length of life.
There is no proven link between your dog giving you Lyme directly. However, the same infected ticks on your dog could potentially bite you as well. Be gentle and careful to remove and rinse the tick properly.
Diagnosis of Canine Lyme Disease
When it comes to diagnosis, your veterinarian will examine your dog’s clinical signs and symptoms, and if they are indicative of the signs of Lyme disease, they may order tests or laboratory tests. Blood tests and serological tests such as Lyme Multiplex Assay helps your veterinarian determine if your dog has Lyme disease, and a QC6 antibody test can even help your veterinarian determine if and what type of treatments are recommended. SNAP tests can also be used as they require a minimum amount of blood to test and provide quick results in minutes. If these come back positive, your vet can still ask for more tests to get even more information.
While there’s not much you can do about your location yourself if you live in a tick hotspot, that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to prevent ticks from attaching to your dog in the first place, whether that’s with preventative medication or changes your landscape.
1. Change your environment
A good way to reduce the likelihood of your dog coming into contact with ticks in the yard is to make the environment you live in less livable for ticks. They like to stay put and tend to thrive in tall grass and wooded areas. If you have such places on your property, make sure your tall grass is trimmed and the lawn mowed regularly. Make sure your lawn isn’t littered with leaves to reduce hiding spots for ticks. If you are near a wooded area, keep your outdoor furniture, play area, and dog equipment or houses away from it. That CDC has recommended that people whose yard has direct access to wood build a 3-foot-wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between the wood and the rest of the yard.
2. Preventive medication for Lyme disease
While you can alter your yard to reduce the number of ticks your pet comes in contact with, it’s impossible to alter public areas that you can take your dog to. Like the dog park or hiking trails. For this reason, in addition to making physical changes and tending to your yard, your dog should receive regular preventive care. Whether you are given a liquid formula to be spread on your dog’s neck or a chewable pill, both options will benefit your dog and help prevent ticks from staying on your dog.
3. Lyme vaccinations
In addition to monthly preventative medications, dogs may also receive vaccinations to help prevent Lyme disease. Note that it is usually only recommended for pets in tick and borrelia prone areas. That vaccination Although it can help prevent it, it has been found to have a higher rate of side effects and is less effective than other vaccines given to dogs. To find out if the risks of vaccination outweigh your dog’s risk of Lyme disease, it’s important to check with your veterinarian. for further discussion and advice.
4. Check for ticks
Keep in mind that Lyme disease can infect your dog 24 to 48 hours after the first bite. Make sure you check your dog for ticks daily, if not every time you bring him in and out of the house. Be sure to check the face, neck and ears as they are popular hiding places for ticks. Ticks can be found in your dog’s ears and mouth, so don’t forget to check those spots. When you’re visiting your vet, you can also ask them to do a tick test for a thorough search.
5. Remove ticks properly
If you have found a tick on your dog, you must remove it properly so as not to accidentally cause infection. Once you find a tick on your dog, you want to remove it immediately and safely.
- Make sure the surrounding fur is spread out so you can get a good look at the tick.
- Use either tweezers or a tick removal hook if available to remove the tick. If you must use your hands, wash them thoroughly afterwards.
- If using your hands or tools, grasp the tick by the head, as close to the skin as possible.
- Once you’ve gripped it gently and slowly and steadily, you’ll want to pull straight up. *** Be careful not to squeeze the tick’s body as this could result in the contents of its body being released into your dog’s bloodstream.
- To safely dispose of the tick, you can flush it down the toilet. Do not crush it as infection could occur
Treating Lyme Disease…and When Left Untreated
If caught early enough, they can be treated with antibiotics for about a month to help them. These antibiotics may vary based on what your veterinarian believes is the best course of action for your dog. antibiotics like Doxycycline, and amoxicillin, are often used, and eventually they would prescribe azithromycin. If used quickly enough, this treatment can aid in your dog’s recovery from Lyme disease.
Treating Lyme can vary in terms of cost. On average, Lyme’s treatment appears to be about average $400 for the first round of antibiotics. This is not in addition to any additional vet visits and fees you may incur during the remainder of the procedure. Lyme can be an expensive disease. Especially if you don’t get caught in time as you may still have medical costs to keep your dog as healthy as possible. Left untreated, your dog will be exposed to a variety of problems that can later develop into serious problems.
- Damage to the central nervous system
- serious kidney problems
- lameness of the limbs
- touch sensitivity
- weight loss
- Overall bad health
According to Pawlicity.com – “Most pet insurance plans will cover treatment for Lyme disease as long as it’s not a pre-existing condition. Therefore, putting your dog on pet insurance is most beneficial to you and your pup if you do so while they are healthy.”
While Lyme disease can be scary, being alert and proactive will help you greatly reduce your risk and your dog’s risk of exposure to it. Checking on your dog and yourself while also following preventive measures is a great way to keep you both happy and healthy. And reduces the likelihood that you will need Lyme treatment. Even if your dog is bitten by a tick, you can still be safe by being alert to symptoms quickly and removing the tick properly early on! Luckily, even if your dog has Lyme disease, there is a way to cure it, or worst case scenario, continue treatment so it can live a happy and healthy life with you!
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