May is here! The sun is out here in Southern California, people are getting ready to be outdoors again, and why not, it’s a great time to be outside. May, however, also marks Lyme Disease Awareness Month. Important because as the weather starts heating up, ticks, that can transmit dangerous diseases, such as Lyme disease, also start coming out, during this time of year. So let’s talk about what one of these diseases, Lyme disease, and how to protect your pet today! First things first:
What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is transmitted to dogs through the bite of a tick, most commonly, the deer tick, which is most commonly found in the Midwest and East Coast of the United States (although I have seen it here in California as well). Once transmitted by the tick into our bloodstream, the Lyme disease organism known as Borrelia burgdorferi, is carried to different parts of the body and often localizes in the joints, and the kidneys.
Lyme disease can also affect people, also through the bite of the same ticks. Therefore, tick prevention is important to the health of both you and your dog in these cases.
What are the signs of Lyme Disease?
In people, Lyme disease will cause a rash at the site of the bite between 3-30 days time. The rash will look like a bull’s eye, a key characteristic of Lyme disease in people.
Unfortunately, in our dogs, Lyme disease is much harder to detect. Sometimes, no clinical signs develop for up to a year as the disease travel through the body, which makes yearly testing for Lyme very important for our pets in high-risk areas. No rash develops in dogs, however, sometimes dogs will develop pain, especially in their joints, and will have trouble walking. This is how most of my Lyme patients present, having problems getting up, laying down, walking, and having decreased appetite. The pain in the limbs can often shift from one leg to another. In the hospital, we see these patients also have developed fevers during this time. More seriously, if the disease has spread to the kidneys, these dogs often show signs of vomiting, nausea, inappetence, and weight loss.
How to diagnose Lyme disease?
Pets that present in the hospital setting, especially those in a high-risk area, should have antibody blood tests run for exposure, this test is called a 4dx. This test is the most commonly used test to detect Lyme disease and is most sensitive 4 weeks after a tick bite. Positive tests for dogs with current clinical signs warrant immediate treatment from me. Other tests, such as PCR, ELISA, and joint fluid analysis can also be done, but are much less common due to costs and sampling.
How to treat Lyme disease?
Lyme disease organism is classified as a bacterium, so it can be treated by antibiotics. My antibiotic of choice for this disease is Doxycycline and I treat for 4 weeks at least.
How to prevent Lyme Disease?
The key to Lyme disease prevention is tick prevention and Lyme vaccination. Ticks are found in grassy and wooded areas and find their way onto pets by hanging out on grass and trees, waiting for an animal to pass by, then they will drop down and attach to the animal. There are a variety of Tick prevention products, but my favorite is Simparica, a chewable tablet given once a month to keep your pet free of ticks, fleas, and other parasites. It’s important to keep your pet on flea and tick preventive year-round, especially in areas of high risk. The Lyme vaccine can be given by your local veterinarian and is also especially important in areas of high risk. After initial vaccination, make sure to have the vaccine boostered in 2-4 weeks for effective coverage. Annual boosters should also be given to maintain immunity to the disease.
I found a tick on my dog, how do I remove it?
Always check your pet for ticks after coming home from a hike, especially in known tick infected areas, grassy areas, and in the woods. If you find a moving tick, it has not fed yet, promptly remove it and place it in a jar of rubbing alcohol to kill it. If you find a tick attached to your pet, cautiously grasp the tick with tweezers as close as possible to your dogs’ skin and firmly pull straight out. Reckless removal can often cause pieces of the tick’s mouth to break off and remain in your dog’s skin, and can lead to skin infections. Please visit your local veterinarian if you’re unable to remove the tick or have problems with tick removal. Removing the tick quickly is important, as it takes at least 12 hours of feeding for the disease to pass. Also please do not attempt if you have any cuts or wounds on your own hands, as the bacterium that causes Lyme disease can transmit through cuts and wounds.
I hope this information helps all the dog lovers out there, I would hate to see dogs affected by a preventable disease such as Lyme disease, as I have seen far too many poor outcomes already in the last year and we want to make sure to help keep you and your pets safe. Everything we do here at Wellnergy Pets is for you and your pets, so please let us know if there are any other diseases you would like for me cover to help you and your pets. Leave a comment below, and don’t forget to follow us on social media at https://www.instagram.com/wellnergypets/ and https://www.facebook.com/WellnergyPets/ to stay up to date on all your pet info! Thanks everyone!
About the Author:
Dr. Zonram Liao D.V.M. is a Southern California native, and earned his undergraduate degree from University of California, San Diego before obtaining his veterinary degree from Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine. He is not only a firm believer in the use of supportive care supplements to improve the health and happiness of his patients, but also is a strong advocate of the benefits of preventive care medicine for his patients as well. During his free time, Dr. Liao enjoys spending his time outdoors fishing and hiking, playing basketball, watching movies, cooking, traveling, and trying new foods.