As the weather warms, we begin to see more and more pets come in with ticks and we are reminded that these little bugs can carry life-threatening diseases. Several species of ticks are common in New England, the most concerning being the Deer Tick. These little pests can carry several bacteria that affect our pets including Borrelia Burgdorferi (Lyme Disease), Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Babesia Microti, and Ehrlichia Chafeensis.
Fortunately, we do not see much Lyme disease affecting cats, however, it can be debilitating for dogs. Common clinical signs include: fever, joint pain, lameness, lymphadenopathy and lethargy. If left untreated, Lyme disease can lead to very serious, sometimes fatal conditions, such as renal failure (Lyme nephritis), myocarditis and neurological disease. Oftentimes the patient shows no clinical signs at all; it is reported that only 10% of infected dogs show clinical signs.
April is known in the veterinary community as Lyme Disease Awareness Month and we take this opportunity to ensure our clients are doing everything possible to reduce the risk of our pets contracting tick-borne disease.
- Prevent. Use one of these products to prevent ticks from transmitting disease:
- Nexgard (Canine) – Monthly chewable with a rapid kill, prevents ticks from transmitting disease. Good alternative for dogs or owners who would prefer not to use topical products.
- Advantix (Canine) / Advantage (Feline) – Monthly topical product which kills and repels fleas and ticks.
- Seresto Collar (Canine & Feline) - Provides 8 months of protection (kills & repels) from fleas & ticks. Water resistant and maintains a steadier state of protection as compared to monthly treatments.
- Although we have excellent preventative products, no product is 100%. We strongly encourage vaccinating dogs against Lyme disease. The vaccine works by stimulating an antibody that attaches to a protein on the Borrelia Burgdorferi bacteria while in the tick, deactivating it before it can even enter the dog.
- Testing for Lyme disease is quick and easy. Most vets employ an in-house test kit called the 4DX Snap Test which tests for 4 common diseases including Lyme, Ehrlichia, Anaplasma and Heartworm (spread by mosquitos). The Test requires just 3 drops of blood and 8 minutes to give us a positive/negative result on all 4 diseases. There is an additional test available at the reference lab to give us a quantitative value on the Lyme antibody level. This is helpful in recurrent positive cases to gauge whether the infection is active or dormant.
- When we find positive Lyme disease cases, we recommend treatment with a 30 day course of antibiotics. Some choose to wait until clinical signs appear, however we think it is best to treat every positive case. Doxycycline is the antibiotic of choice for treatment of Lyme. The price of this medication has increased dramatically over the past couple of years; however, we can now have it compounded for a reasonable price.
Lyme disease in dogs is one of the most common conditions Vets see in their practices, so we hope you follow these steps to ensure you are doing everything you can to protect your furry family.