With the beautiful weather we have been having, spring certainly feels near! So don’t forget that amid all the plant life springing up, there are also smaller inhabitants beginning to flourish. While ticks can be a problem any time of year, we are approaching the season when ticks are most likely to transmit diseases to dogs.
There are a number of tick-borne diseases that can be transmitted to dogs (e.g. Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichiosis, Anaplasmosis). Preventing the transmission of these diseases involves a multi-modal approach. Yard control measures, year-round tick prevention, and daily “tick checks” can go a long way in helping to prevent your dog from getting these diseases. For Lyme disease, we have an added mode of protection: Lyme disease vaccination.
We encourage you to talk with our staff and veterinarians about whether your dog could be at risk for Lyme disease. Here are some things to consider:
- Lyme disease is present in Guilford County. According to the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) website, 1 in 33 dogs tested positive for Lyme disease in 2015. This incidence has increased since 2011 (when 1 in 69 dogs tested positive for Lyme). It is important to remember that this data only reflects the number of dogs tested – many dogs have not even been tested, so the numbers are likely much higher!
- As of March 2015, Guilford County is one of 5 counties in North Carolina to be designated as Lyme endemic by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Division of Public Health.
- Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi.
- Black-legged ticks (also known as deer ticks) are carriers of the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium. The immature tick, or nymph, is often the stage that transmits Lyme disease to animals or humans. Nymphs are tiny (less than 2 mm) and very hard to see!
- Dogs are 50 to 100 times more likely to come into contact with ticks than humans. If your dog goes outdoors, they can be exposed to ticks (even in the city!)
- Tick control and annual vaccination are the most effective measures to help prevent Lyme disease in your dog.
Not every dog that gets exposed to Lyme disease will become sick. However, Lyme disease can be a debilitating and potentially life-threatening disease for your dog should signs develop. Symptoms can include lethargy, anorexia, fever, limping, or occasionally you may see a rash (often this can be hidden by the fur). If not caught early or left untreated, later symptoms may involve the joints, kidney, heart, or neurological system. These symptoms can become life-threatening.
Testing for Lyme disease can be performed in our clinic. In fact, every time we test your dog for heartworm disease, we are also testing your dog for exposure to Lyme, Anaplasma and Ehrlichia all in the same test! Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics. Early treatment holds a better prognosis for successful outcomes.
We encourage you to talk with us today about whether Lyme vaccination is an option for your dog. Additionally, please take the time to explore these helpful resources:
- Companion Animal Parasite Council Lyme Disease Information
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Lyme Information
Author: Dr. C. Noureddine, DVM, MS