What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is a multi-system disorder caused by the spirochete bacteria Borrelia burgdoferi and transmitted by ticks. It's the most commonly reported tick-borne disease in the U.S. human population, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Lyme positive dogs have been found in all 50 states.
Where does Lyme disease come from?
Certain tick species carry and transmit the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. The culprits in North America are the black-legged or deer tick and the western black-legged tick. Both are smaller than the other ticks found on pets in the United States.
To get a blood meal, a tick climbs onto low-growing vegetation and uses its forelegs to sense a host animal and grab onto it. If it is an infected host, such as a white-footed mouse, the tick ingests the bacteria in a blood meal and becomes an infective carrier without getting sick itself. The tick can retain the infection throughout its life cycle and give it to subsequent hosts, such as you or your dog. Usually, and infective tick must be attached 48 hours before transmission occurs.
What are the clinical signs, diagnosis and treatments?
Lyme disease affects animals differently, and many display no clinical signs at all. In dogs, many cases start with limping, lymph node swelling and fever. Other signs include loss of appetite, painful joints and lethargy. Dogs don't show signs for two to five months post-infection. Antibiotics help but don't stop the disease.
What about Lyme disease in people?
According to the CDC, about 20,000 new human cases of Lyme disease are reported in the United States annually. Typically, the first symptom is an expanding circular rash at the site of a tick bite 3-30 days after the bite. Patients also experience fatigue, chills, fever, headache, muscle aches, joint aches and swollen lymph nodes. Most case of human Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics if started early.
There is no evidence that dogs can spread the disease directly to their owners. However, they can bring infected ticks into the home or yard.
What are my dogs risk factors?
All dogs are at risk of contracting Lyme disease. If you answer "yes" to any of the following questions, your dog is at an increased risk. Ask your veterinarian about vaccination, tick control and testing.
- Does your dog spend time in wooded or grassy areas?
- Is your dog outdoors during peak tick season?
- Does your dog live in or visit Lyme-endemic areas of the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic or upper Midwest?
How can I protect my dog from Lyme disease?
Remember...Protection = Prevention! Lyme vaccine works by helping to block the transmission from tick to dog.
- Vaccinate your dog to help protect them against transmission.
- Apply a topical tick control product monthly during tick season.
- Brush dogs frequently during tick season and conduct thorough tick checks.
- If you find a tick attached, remove it promptly with tweezers and without crushing the tick and contact your veterinarian.
How do I protect myself from Lyme disease?
- Avoid heavily wooded areas during tick season.
- Wear light-colored clothing to help you see and remove ticks before they attach.
- Wear a long-sleeved shirt tucked into long pants tucked into socks.
- Conduct frequent, full-body tick checks.
For more information, visit http://www.lymeprevention.com/