What is Lyme disease?
Lyme is a bacterial infection (Borrelia burgdorferi) that is transmitted by the deer tick (Ixodes scapularis.) Ticks feed on the host for the sole purpose of developing to the next stage of their life cycle.
What are the signs?
Most often dogs are asymptomatic, and the infection is commonly found incidentally on a routine screening (4dx Plus). In clinical patients, common signs can include:
- Arched back
- Sensitive to touch
- Lack of appetite
- Swollen joints
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Difficulty breathing
- Complete heart block
In severe situations, Lyme disease can cause nephritis (inflammation of the kidney) and lead to renal failure. If not caught in time, this can result in death.
How do you diagnose the disease?
Lyme disease is diagnosed with an in-house blood test called a 4dx Plus SNAP test. This test looks for Lyme disease, Ehrlichia, Anaplasma, and Heartworm. Ehrlichia and Anaplasma are tick-borne diseases that are transmitted by the American Dog Tick and the Lonestar Tick. These ticks are also commonly found in the North East. Heartworm is an internal parasite that is transmitted by mosquitos. So by doing the 4dx Plus test, you will also be testing your dog for some other commonly found infections.
Additional diagnostics consist of a Lyme Quantification C6. This test quantitates how many antibodies are circulating within the blood stream at the time of the infection. This test is later repeated 6 months after treatment with doxycycline to determine if treatment was adequate. A CBC/Chemistry is also warranted to evaluate for low platelets or anemia. A urine sample is also necessary to evaluate for protein in the urine. If there is protein in the urine, this can mean that there is early kidney insufficiency.
How do dogs get Lyme?
Once a tick bites a dog, they must feed for about 48 hours. The tick regurgitates the bacterial infection (spirochete) into the dog.
How do you treat Lyme?
Treatment is with a 30-day course of doxycycline (antibiotic). Then following treatment, it is recommended that your dog be vaccinated for Lyme disease. The Lyme vaccine consists of 2 injections, given 3 weeks apart, to complete the series. Then the vaccine is given annually.
Is it contagious?
Lyme disease is not contagious; however, if a deer tick were to bite a human, then it is possible that they can contract the disease. The disease is only spread through a tick bite and therefore, is not contagious to people.
How can we prevent the infection?
Lyme disease can be prevented by giving your dog a Lyme vaccine annually, topical flea/tick prevention monthly (such as Frontline Gold and Nexgard), and a flea/tick collar (Seresto). Let us help you choose the right prevention product for your pet and check their vaccination status. Call (516) 379-5010 today!
Did you know that ticks can also spread Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Anaplasmosis, Ehrlichiosis and Babesiosis to pets and people? Learn more about Parasite Prevention here.