Lyme disease is one of the most common diseases seen in New England, and has been spreading quickly across the United States over the past 20 years.  According to the Companion Animal Parasite Council, all 50 states had cases of confirmed canine Lyme disease in 2018.  In our small state of New Hampshire alone, there were 11,374 Lyme positive dogs reported.  

About Lyme Disease

Lyme disease was first diagnosed in 1983 due to an outbreak of arthritic symptoms in humans in the Lyme Connecticut area.  Lyme disease is a spirochete bacterium that is transmitted to dogs, humans, and many other mammalian species through tick bites.  The deer tick or the black-legged tick, lone star tick, American dog tick, and brown dog tick carry and can transmit Lyme disease.

Symptoms

Common symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs include intermittent lameness, decreased activity level, decreased appetite, and fever.  Dogs do not always show all four of these symptoms, but typically develop a combination of two or more when they become clinically ill.   Also, dogs who are not properly protected and are repeatedly exposed to Lyme-carrying ticks are at risk of developing certain types of kidney disease.  Before proper prevention was available, many dogs infected with Lyme disease died of a syndrome known as Lyme nephropathy.

Transmission

If a live tick is attached to a dog for over 36 hours, it can then begin to transmit Lyme disease.  Unlike people, dogs do not perform tick-checks on themselves; and they do not commonly develop the typical bullseye rash as seen in humans.  Therefore, we typically do not know that our canine loved ones have been infected with Lyme disease until they come up positive on a blood test or develop symptoms and are diagnosed by a veterinarian.  Plus, dogs spend much of their time sniffing around and playing in areas where ticks thrive, such as woods and tall grasses.  The key to reducing the risk of our pets developing Lyme disease is through prevention.

Prevention is Key

Just as it is with us, nightly tick-checks are very important to perform on our dogs to help keep them free of tick-borne diseases.  However, life gets busy and small ticks can be missed on a fur-covered dog.  Two other main keys to preventing our 4-legged loved ones from becoming infected with Lyme disease are through proper year-round preventives and vaccination.

Which Products to Use

Ticks are one of the hardiest creatures on our planet.  Contrary to certain “opinions” on the internet, homeopathic and holistic options are not effective to kill ticks or prevent them from transmitting tick-borne diseases.  Over the years, there have been many different types of (flea &) tick preventatives in a variety of formulations.

In 2014, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA)approved new prescription medications called Isoxazolines.  These are typically chewable tablets, which makes it easier to administer to dogs. By avoiding topical products, it also eliminates the possibility of local skin irritation and reduces contact of the product with human and feline family members. These medications have completely revolutionized our ability to protect our dogs from Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.  They are incredibly well-tolerated and work much faster and more reliably than any of the more traditional topical preventatives.  Here, at Hampton Veterinary Hospital, we recommend year-round use of Bravecto for the majority of our canine patients.  

Remember, prevention is the key to keeping our loved ones safe & healthy!