Lyme Disease Prevention

The question that veterinarians throughout British Columbia have been hearing more and more often is “can my dog get lyme disease?”  Well, we’re glad you’re asking because education leads to prevention! So let us clear some things up for you.

Lyme disease is one of the most common tick-transmitted diseases in the world but only causes symptoms in a small percentage of the dogs that are affected.  Bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi are transmitted through the bite of the Ixodes tick (deer tick). With some of their eight legs hanging onto the leaves or brush, these ticks use the rest of their legs to hang out and wait for something tasty to latch onto.  This could be any small mammal such rodents or rabbits, deer…or you or your dog while you’re out for a walk!

Symptoms in a dog with lyme disease may include reduced energy, decrease in appetite, stiff joints or lameness, fever and swollen lymph nodes.  They may even have recurrent lameness where they are lame in one or more joints lasting only 3-4 days but recurs days to weeks later, maybe even in a different leg or joint.

Lyme disease can be diagnosed by your veterinarian, most commonly through a blood test and prognosis is good if treated.  Treatments will vary depending on the severity of the disease but antibiotics have proven to be a very effective method, usually seeing results in just a few days.

So now that we know what we’re dealing with, let’s talk about prevention!  There is a vaccination available for dogs to prevent lyme disease, as well as several topical and oral medications to prevent fleas and ticks.  At your next annual vaccination appointment, ask your veterinarian what he/she would recommend as a preventative for your pet.

It has been found that a tick generally has to be on its host for approximately 24 hours before the bacteria can be transmitted.  Therefore, doing regular “tick checks” on your dog, especially right after a walk through the tall grass or brush, is a good idea.  The most common spots to find ticks on a dog are around the head, ears and front legs. This is because as your dog moves through the grass, these are typically the first places a tick will come into contact with them.  Ticks should be removed carefully with tweezers, pinching the tick near the point they enter the skin or bring them in to see us and we can safely remove it and ensure no mouth parts are left behind.

Tick populations in British Columbia are largest in the lower mainland, Vancouver Island and in the Fraser Valley.  It has been found that although the number of infected ticks is still relatively low, that number is increasing in the area.  The main tick season is during the summer months of May-July but there has been a spike during the winter months of January and February as well.

Rest assured that if your pet does become infected with lyme disease, although humans are susceptible to the disease, you cannot get it directly from your furry friend!  You can, however, get it from a tick bite as well so make sure you’re doing those “tick checks” on both your dog AND yourself!

Speak to your local veterinarian and don’t let the fear of those creepy crawlers keep you and your dog indoors this summer!