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5 Facts You May Not Know About Lyme Disease in Dogs

April 15, 2016

If you are not yet aware of Lye Disease, you almost certainly will be soon. Lyme disease has spread to many regions of the U.S. Lyme disease is a condition caused by an organism, called Borrelia burgdorferi. It’s not a new disease. There is actually evidence in at least one Egyptian mummy that the organism infected people 500 years ago, according to Bay Area Lyme Foundation. The organization also says that Lyme was first observed in the United States in the 1960’s, in a village called Lyme, CT. In the 1980’s, Willy Burgdorfer showed the causative agent to be a bacteria transmitted in North America by deer ticks (Ixodes scapularum.)

Once thought to be very localized and uncommon disease, Lyme has become widespread in both humans and animals. In large part this is because of the increasing range of deer, and therefore the distribution of the black legged (deer) tick.

No matter where you live, it’s good to learn all that you can about Lyme disease.

1. Lyme disease is on the rise

According to the CDC, there are over 30,000 cases of Lyme disease in people every year in the U.S. and the incidence of confirmed Lyme cases has been increasing since 1993. This may be due to two major factors:

  • People are spending more time outside;
  • Populations of white tail deer are expanding.

Both of these factors increase the likelihood of exposure to infected ticks.

The prevalence and distribution of Lyme disease in dogs is also on the rise, confirms the Campanion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC).

2. Lyme disease doesn’t come from deer

Lyme disease is transmitted by the so called “Deer Tick” But the deer plays no role in the disease’s development. Deer only serve as a preferred host for the tick. The Lyme disease organism lives in mice and small rodents. When ticks feed on these animals they become infected carriers. When the tick next feeds on the susceptible individual or dog, the organism is transmitted.

3. Lyme disease takes time to transmit (so be vigilant)

When the tick finds a host, be it dog or human, it attaches itself and begins feeding on the host’s blood almost immediately. It takes 36-48 hours for the organism to enter the host and for the host to become infected with the Lyme organism. Therefore, it’s a good idea to check yourself and your dog carefully after spending time outside.

4. Lyme Disease is a year-round threat in many areas (Not here yet!)

Although CAPC says there are seasonal variations in tick populations, ticks should be considered a year-round threat (in many areas), as should the diseases they carry. Ticks are most active in cooler temperatures. (As low as 4 degrees Celsius is the temperature you can see them active, but ticks can remain active all summer and of course become very active again in the fall when it is cooler) . Ticks are generally active and feeding in areas where people go for recreation such as along hiking trails and wherever there is brush for them to hide in.

5. Have your dog tested every year.

Many veterinarians rely on a test called ‘Snap 4DX Plus’ produced by IDEXX Laboratories. This test checks for prior current or previous infection with the Lyme organism. A positive test result does not tell you if the organism is causing problems in your pet. Before starting any treatment your veterinarian will likely recommend further testing; particularly if your dog has no symptoms.

Quick tips to protect our dog from Lyme:

1. Reduce risk of exposure by avoiding areas where ticks might livesuch as bushy areas and check your dog thoroughly every day for ticks. Remember some of the tick larvae you are looking for may be no longer and a poppy seed.

2. Administer a monthly flea and tick product such as Advantix to kill ticks rapidly and hopefully use on that repels ticks.

3. Ask your veterinarian to see if your dog requires vaccinating against Lyme disease.

Contact us, your local animal hospital in Peterborough, ON!