Here is what pet owner’s need to know about Lyme disease:
What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease, also known as Lyme borreliosis, is a bacterial illness that can be transmitted to humans, dogs, and other animals by certain species of ticks. It is caused by the spiral-shaped bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi that is carried inside the tick and then gets into the dog’s or person’s bloodstream through a tick bite. Once in the bloodstream, the bacteria can travel to different parts of the body and cause problems in specific organs or locations, such as joints, as well as overall illness.
Which ticks carry Lyme disease?
As far as we know, there are several ticks that carry Lyme disease. The most common culprit is the deer tick, also known as the black-legged tick (shown left). This is a very small tick about the size of a grain of pepper and often goes unnoticed even when engorged. Other ticks that carry Lyme include the brown dog tick, the rocky mountain wood tick and the American dog tick.
Where is Lyme disease found?
Lyme disease can surface throughout much of the United States, but it is only prevalent in certain areas. Naturally the disease is found in areas where there is a high concentration of ticks, such as wooded and rural areas. The areas of highest occurrence are the Northeast, the Upper Midwest, and the Pacific coast.
How is Lyme disease transmitted?
Lyme disease is transmitted from the bacteria-carrying tick to the animal through saliva. The tick will bite its host and the saliva will infect the animal. The tick must be attached to its host for 48 hours for it to transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. However, not all animals will contract Lyme disease even if the tick is attached for 48 hours or more. It has been reported that only a small percentage of dogs will actually contract the disease (cats very rarely, if ever, contract the infection). Lyme disease is transmitted only by the tick vector, not dog to dog, or dog to people. The tick needs to bite the host to infect it. Once ticks feed, they detach themselves from their hosts and leave. It is the unfed ticks that look for hosts, which can also include people.
What are the symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs?
Typical symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs include:
- Loss of appetite
- Reduced energy
- Lameness (can be shifting, intermittent, and recurring)
- Generalized stiffness, discomfort, or pain
- Swelling of joints
If your pet has these symptoms call your Vet immediately. Symptoms can progress to kidney failure, which can be fatal. Serious cardiac and neurological effects can also occur.
How are dogs tested for Lyme disease?
Veterinarians use blood testing to help diagnose Lyme disease; however, testing positive does not necessarily mean that your pet has the disease. Testing positive can also mean that your pet was exposed to the bacteria that causes Lyme disease but did not actually contract it. Often, a dog’s system can fight off the disease naturally. Your veterinarian will use the blood tests along with other symptoms and the animal’s medical history to make a diagnosis.
How is Lyme disease in dogs treated?
Treatment includes administration of an antibiotic, usually for several weeks. This often will quickly resolve symptoms, but in some cases infection will persist and prolonged medication may be needed. Treatment can also include other therapies aimed at resolving or relieving specific symptoms.
How can I prevent my dog from getting Lyme disease?
Avoid wooded and brushy areas that are especially high risk for the ticks that can carry Lyme disease. Ticks wait on tips of long grass and as your pet goes by and brushes against the grass, the tick latches on. Stick to staying on a trail where the grass is cut short. If you are in an area that has a high risk for ticks or where Lyme disease is widespread, be sure to do a tick-check right away whenever your dog comes in from spending time in the woods.
Use a Tick Repellant
The best protection against Lyme disease is prevention. Spraying your dog with a flea and tick repellent that can kill a tick before it reaches the 48 hour mark will help ensure your pet's protection. Pura Naturals Pet™ Flea and Tick Spray is an effective way to protect your pet from pests naturally. This non-toxic, gentle spray is made with peppermint oil, cedar oil, rosemary oil, cove oil and cinnamon oil. This perfect blend of natural oils work wonderfully together to ward off pests and kill fleas and ticks. Here's how each ingredient works: Peppermint Oil Peppermint oil is an essential oil extracted from peppermint - Mentha piperita. suitable for an abundance of oral and topical uses and antimicrobial properties. Peppermint essential oil is a natural deterrent against mosquitoes and flying insects and gives a cooling sensation (perfect in the warm weather) and has a calming effect on the body, which can relieve sore muscles when used topically. Cedar Oil Cedar oil is an essential oil derived from conifer trees of the pine or cypress families. Cedar oil has many applications including medical and industrial uses, but is also commonly used in perfumes, aromatherapy and in pest control. It is completely non-toxic to humans and pets, but it is known to be toxic to fleas, ticks and mosquitoes specifically, however, many pesky insects beyond ticks are turned away by the natural smell of cedar oil. Rosemary Oil Rosemary Oil is an essential oil extracted from Rosmarinus Officinalis. The rosemary plant is commonly used in gardens as a form of pest control. Rosemary essential oil has anti-inflammatory qualities as well, which makes it very good for relieving the pain from sprains and joint aches. It is also known to stimulate blood circulation, which can relieve pain and also aid in coagulation of wounds for faster healing. Clove Oil Clove oil, along with citronella, can be one of the most effective natural ingredients to use as an insect repellent. Clove oil is an essential oil extracted from the clove plant, Syzgium aromaticum and can also be used as a massage oil to relieve pain and stress. Cinnamon Oil Cinnamon oil (Cinnamomum verum) is derived from the plant of the species name Laurus cinnamomum and belongs to the Lauraceae botanical family. Cinnamon oil is also commonly used to fight infections, fight parasites and stimulates the immune system. According to a study conducted in Taiwan, cinnamon oil can kill off mosquito eggs. It can also act as a repellent against adult mosquitoes, most notably the Asian tiger mosquito.
Here are recommendations on preventing ticks on your pets from the CDC:
- Check your pets for ticks daily, especially right after they spend time outdoors.
- If you find a tick on your dog, remove it right away. (Here's how to safely remove a tick from your dog.)
- Ask your veterinarian to conduct a tick check at each exam.
- Talk to your veterinarian about tick-borne diseases in your area.
- Reduce tick habitat in your yard by clearing tall grasses and brush from your yard and mowing and raking the yard regularly. (Check out more information on how to create a tick-safe zone through landscaping.)
- Use flea and tick prevention products (always check products with your vet)
- Have your vet test for tick-borne diseases annually, even if your dog doesn't seem to have any symptoms.
For more information on tick’s and Lyme disease, contact your veterinarian. Never self-diagnose your pet or attempt to treat them at home without a veterinarian’s guidance.