Lyme disease is caused by a spirochete-type bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi. Dogs are infected with Lyme disease when ticks bite and take a blood meal. The disease then circulates throughout the body and tends to localize in the joints.
Clinical signs of Lyme disease include generalized pain, anorexia, fever and limping. Incidence of Lyme disease has been on the rise in Ontario.
Do all ticks have Lyme Disease?
Several species of ticks are known to transmit Lyme disease, the most common being the Deer Tick (Ixodes scapularis)
What are the most common ticks in our area?
The most common tick we see here at North Hill is the Deer Tick
What do I do if I find a tick?
If you find a tick attached to your dog, remove it from your dog using tweezers or a tick twister. Do not attempt to use your fingers, chemicals or a flame to remove it. Ideally we want to cause the least amount of stress to the tick as possible to prevent further transmission of the infective saliva. It is best to use tweezers or tick twisters. If you use tweezers apply pressure to the skin around where the tick’s head is embedded and slowly pull up. For tick twisters, follow the directions on the packaging.
The next step would be to call your veterinarian and let them know that you have found a tick and to schedule appropriate testing in 6 weeks to ensure no disease has been transmitted.
Is Lyme disease contagious?
Humans can get Lyme disease but not from dogs, they must be bit by an infected tick.
How do we test and prevent Lyme disease?
Testing for Lyme disease is done by a blood test but will only be effective 6 weeks after the tick has been removed when the dog is starting to create antibodies. Another test that is more specific and sensitive is the PCR which can test blood or joint fluid.
The best method of prevention is avoiding grassy, wooded or sandy areas. There are prescriptions that can be given to your dog which help prevent the transmission of Lyme disease by controlling ticks.
There is also a vaccination that is available, but is more recommended in endemic areas. If you have further inquiries about the vaccination contact your veterinarian.
Is there treatment for Lyme disease if my pet is diagnosed?
Since the infectious agent in Lyme disease is a bacterium the disease can be controlled by antibiotics. However, finding the correct antibiotic can be difficult and once it is found it can be a lengthy course until the disease is eradicated.
Occasionally the disease can re-occur or if proper prevention isn’t taken the dog can be infected by another tick.