April is a very busy month for pet related awareness events. The month of April is considered Prevention of Lyme Disease in Dogs Month and National Heartworm Awareness Month. It is also Pet First Aid Awareness month, Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month, and there are weeks in the month that celebrate Dog Bite Prevention and Animal Control Officer Appreciation. There are also specific days in the month such as Earth Day, World Veterinary Day, Kids and Pets day, as well as National Bat Appreciation day, (those bats, although creepy to me, do a lot of good for us). Since I can't write about all of those things, I will devote this article to Lyme Disease. If you are interested, please check out the Eastview Animal Hospital Facebook page for further information on Bite Prevention, Pet First Aid, and Heartworm Disease.
Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi and dogs come into contact with it by being bitten by a tick that is carrying the bacteria. The ticks that can carry the bacteria are very common in our area. The ticks can be in grass, under decks, and in wooded areas. They favor biting areas on the dog that do not have much fur, such as the inside of the ears, around the eyes and in the "arm pit" area.
I think one of the most important points to know is that Lyme disease can affect any dog, even if they only use the outside as their restroom. I have seen Lyme disease in a chihuahua who weighed 4 pounds! Not every dog that gets exposed to the bacteria will get sick, and unfortunately we don't really have a good way to figure out which ones will get sick. If only a view into a crystal ball could help us out!
When dogs get sick with Lyme disease, they can have a fever, painful joints, and in some cases it can even result in kidney failure.
Once per year, a dog is should be tested for Lyme disease. This test is a part of the test that is done to check for heartworm disease. The test also looks for 2 other diseases that dogs can get from ticks. If a dog tests positive for Lyme disease, then we know that the dog has gotten exposed to Lyme disease. If this is the case, your veterinarian can discuss the options that you have an a pet owner. So, now it is time to address the best part of this article and that is how to prevent a dog from getting Lyme disease.
First of all, a product should be used that will prevent ticks from biting the dog. There are several products available, both in an oral and topical form. Talk to your veterinarian about the product which would be best for your dog. Please do not buy a product before consulting with your veterinarian.
The second thing that a dog owner can do is vaccinate their dog against Lyme disease. This shot is similar to dogs getting their distemper/parvo shot. It does not prevent the tick from biting the dog, but it does prevent the Lyme disease from developing.
It is also very important to check your dog for ticks every day. The least amount of time that a tick is attached to your dogs skin the better. Remember ticks are attracted to areas that have minimal hair.
Lyme disease is certainly a disease that we can associate with since it can also affect humans. It can be fatal for dogs, but it's also treatable in most cases.
I hope that after reading this, you have gained some knowledge about Lyme disease. Please make sure that you address any questions about Lyme disease with your veterinarian.
Article written by:
Dr. Lori Hickie