Lyme disease is a multi-system disorder caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. Lyme positive dogs have been reported in all 50 states. There are approximately 20,000 new cases of Lyme disease in humans reported each year. While there is no evidence that dogs can spread Lyme disease directly to humans, they can bring infected ticks into the yard and home, increasing the risk of tick bites to their owners. Protecting your dog from Lyme disease benefits you and your family as well.
Certain tick species carry and transmit the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. If a tick takes a blood meal from an infected host, such as a mouse, the tick ingests the bacteria and becomes an infected carrier for the rest of its life. The tick can then infect subsequent hosts such as your dog or you. Usually, an infective tick must remain attached for 48 hours before the bacteria is transmitted.
Lyme disease affects animals differently than it does humans. In dogs, some cases start with limping, swollen lymph nodes and a slight fever, while many may show no symptoms at all. Other signs may include loss of appetite, painful joints and lethargy.
All dogs are at risk of contracting Lyme disease, but your pet may be at an increased risk if he spends time in wooded or grassy areas, is outdoors during peak tick season, or lives or travels with you to the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic or upper Midwest, all areas where Lyme disease is prevalent.
To help protect your dog from ticks:
-Use a topical or oral medication monthly that helps to kill ticks your dog may pick up.
-Brush your dog frequently and conduct thorough tick checks whenever he spends time outside.
-If you find an attached tick, remove it promptly using tweezers or a tick removal tool, taking care to avoid crushing the tick.
-If your dog is at risk for Lyme disease, your veterinarian may recommend a vaccine that helps to block the transmission of the disease.