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Lyme Disease in Dogs; The Who, What, When, Where and Why


When we think of Lyme disease, many times we only think of humans being affected. But did you know that dogs can also contract Lyme disease? Increased white footed mice populations on the east coast are causing concern that this year’s risk of Lyme disease will be extremely high.  Here’s what you need to know about Lyme disease in dogs living in Central Indiana.

What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is a tick borne disease caused by infection of the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria. Lyme disease is spread through infected Ixodes ticks. Symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs include joint soreness, fever and decreased appetite. In severe cases neurologic and kidney disease can develop. Lyme disease can be difficult to diagnose in dogs because of the vague symptoms and it is believed that not all dogs show signs of the disease.

Who is at Risk?
The Ixodes species of ticks that carry Lyme disease do not inhabit Central Indiana, but dogs that travel to other parts of the country where Ixodes ticks are prevalent are at risk of contracting Lyme disease while traveling to those areas. Maps of distribution of both Ixodes scapularis and Ixodes pacificus (found on the Pacific coastal region) can be found at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

Prevention
While Ixodes ticks have not been found to inhabit Central Indiana, dogs in Central Indiana are at risk for several other diseases spread by the Amblyoma, Dermacentor and Rhipicephalus species of ticks that live here. For this reason tick prevention is important to all dogs in Central Indiana.

  • Effective topical or oral prevention. We have several options we recommend here at Mass Ave Animal Clinic or Fountain Square Animal Clinic depending on your pet’s lifestyle.
  • If possible, avoid habitats of ticks which include tall grass fields, marshes and wooded areas
  • Reduce shrub overgrowth around homes
  • Thoroughly check your dog’s skin for ticks after trips to wooded or high grass areas. Most tick borne diseases are not transferred within the first 12 hours of a tick’s attachment, and in Lyme disease specifically, transmission is not believed to occur until after 36 hours of attachment.
  • There is a vaccine available for dogs at risk of exposure to Lyme disease. Ask your veterinarian if this is recommended for your dog.

I found a tick on my dog! What do I do?
Using tweezers grasp low down on the tick where it meets the skin and gently pull up with even pressure to remove it. If there are any mouth parts left in the skin leave them and allow the skin to heal. There will be a small raised bump of reactive tissue left where the tick was attached. This is normal and can take several weeks to reduce. Wear gloves for your own safety and never pierce or crush the body of the tick as it is possible to transmit disease through a cut in your skin from the blood within the tick. You can dispose of a live tick by submerging it in rubbing alcohol or flushing it down the toilet.

If you suspect your dog has Lyme Disease
Signs of Lyme disease are not specific to Lyme disease and can be signs of other serious conditions. If lethargy, joint pain, appetite changes or any sudden behavior changes are noted in your pet it is important to have them seen by a veterinarian immediately. If you have recently found a tick on your pet or have traveled to an area endemic for Lyme disease let the veterinary staff know. Blood testing can confirm exposure to Lyme and other common tick borne diseases.

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