Lyme disease is a notorious tick-borne disease that all pet owners worry about—especially in Pennsylvania, where Lyme disease is fairly common. If your dog is an indoor-outdoor dog, or if you like to take your dog on long walks or hikes in wooded areas, it’s a good idea to learn all you can about protecting your dog from Lyme disease—and there’s no better time than April, which is Prevention of Lyme Disease in Dogs month!
Considered one of the more serious ailments in pets, Lyme disease is a is a clinical manifestation as a result of infection with Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria (it’s never transmitted dog-to-dog, or dog-to-person). Ticks get on pets, and the bite transmits Lyme bacteria to the host. Ticks must be attached to your pet for 24 hours for transmission, which is why combing your pets post-walk is a good idea if you live in an area where Lyme disease is prevalent.
Even if you find a tick on your dog and suspect it’s been attached for over two days, only a few dogs will contract Lyme disease as a result. Even so, the best way to ensure your pet is at low risk of developing Lyme disease is to be vigilant about prevention. Administering something that protects against fleas and ticks means that ticks will die before they are able to attach. It’s also a good idea to keep your dog on a leash when going for hikes, as this decreases your dog’s risk of exposure to ticks by keeping them away from tall, thick grass and wooded areas. There are also certain vaccinations that can help to prevent Lyme disease in your dog, so be sure to check with your Greater Philadelphia area veterinarian to see if a vaccination would be right for your dog.
There are a few types of ticks that carry bacteria. Most common is the deer tick, sometimes called the black-legged tick. Other culprits are the brown and American dog ticks, and the rocky mountain wood tick.
If you suspect your dog may have been exposed to ticks, it may be several months after infection before you see evidence. Look for a fever between 103-105 degrees, lethargy, a loss of appetite, swelling in the joints and lymph nodes, and lameness—especially your dog shifting from leg to leg.
If you suspect your dog has been exposed to Borrelia burgdorferi, contact your veterinarian. Lyme disease can be fatal in dogs. Your vet will use a blood test to see if your dog tests positive for Borrelia burgdorferi—though a positive result does not necessarily mean that your dog has actually contracted it. Healthy dogs fight off infections naturally. Still, it’s always best to be careful!
VRC is a veterinary hospital in Malvern, PA. If you’re worried about Lyme disease, or if your dog is exhibiting symptoms, contact your primary veterinarian to see if a visit to a specialist at VRC veterinary hospital is warranted.