What is lyme disease?
Lyme disease is a tick borne bacterial disease that is extremely common in our area. Recent data has shown that as many as 1 in 6 unvaccinated dogs is infected.
What if I find an engorged tick?
You can remove an engorged tick with tweezers by firmly gripping as close to the skin as possible and pulling it out. It can be difficult to remove as they are firmly attached.
BE CAREFUL TO TRY TO AVOID POPPING THE TICK AND RELEASING BLOOD. RESEARCH HAS SHOWN LYME DISEASE CAN BE TRANSFERRED IF YOU GET CONTAMINATED BLOOD ON YOUR SKIN.
Once removed, you should wrap the engorged tick in tissue and flush it. Do not release it to the environment as a tick that has fed will then lay eggs.
What are the symptoms?
There are many different symptoms associated with Lyme disease infection in dogs. Some of the most common are joint swelling, lameness, fever, lethargy, and in rare cases, fatal kidney failure. Many dogs who are infected show little to no signs at all, but we can detect the infection on the yearly combination heartworm test.
How do I protect my dog?
Fortunately, there is a vaccine available to protect dogs against this common and potentially very dangerous disease. Even if your dog is already positive for Lyme disease, I still recommend vaccinating him or her.
Research has shown that the Lyme bacterium hides very well from the immune system when a dog is infected. Therefore, many dogs will continue to get infected over and over again if not vaccinated. When given the vaccine and a booster one month later, dogs form a nice immune response and are considered protected.
What if my dog’s test is positive?
Don’t panic if your dog is positive. I treat all first time positive dogs with a course of antibiotics to rapidly decrease the number of circulating bacteria. Then, if your dog is otherwise healthy, I will begin the vaccination series. It is important to remember that once a dog is positive, he or she will likely be positive for life. The vaccine at that time only prevents further infection that may lead to more severe symptoms.
It is very important to have all dogs vaccinated as soon as possible, even dogs that don’t go outside much. I often see small dogs that don’t spend much time on the ground show up positive for Lyme disease. All dogs in this area are at high risk!
Our Lyme vaccine is available in combination with Leptosporosis. Another dangerous bacterial disease that I will cover in my next blog post.